Titanic – The Musical – in Concert

A production that befits the scale of the Titanic itself

By Sebastian Purcell

Titanic – the Musical is an operatic recount of the events of the catastrophic maiden voyage of the proclaimed unsinkable ship the Titanic. The story follows a selection of guests from the first three classes and a handful of crew members as they recount their hopes, dreams and come to grip with their ultimate mortality for those1500 souls that perished.

The Australian production directed by Theresa Borg is staged as a lively concert, with minimal set and props. However, it does extend beyond just a simple concert with Katie Ditchburn’s choreography and Jason Bovard’s lighting design combining to add movement and colour, taking the audience from the boiler engine room of the ship and to the cold depths of the Atlantic Ocean. Musical Director Stephen Gray leads a 26 strong orchestra, which is wonderfully tight.

The 23 strong ensemble is impeccable with their vocals. They soar with every note despite dialogue, which I found clunky, and songs which I don’t overly memorable. John O’Hara, as third officer Pitman and Henry Etches is marvellously flamboyant, gleeful and brings a welcome levity to an otherwise serious production. Likewise, I found Johanna Allen’s performance as Alice Bean a standout in her portrayal of a person looking to rise above her class; her acting a stand out in this production.

Juan Jackson as Thomas Andrews, the Titanic’s architect, is a powerful, sublime vocalist and serves dutifully as the narrator for the production. However, Anthony Warlow as Captain E.J Smith is the draw card for this production. I was surprised by how little stage time Warlow has in comparison to other roles, and I certainly felt like he was under-utilised given that every time he sang it was a complete masterclass in performance, completely unmatched by anyone. There is a very short aria To Be a Captain in Act Two, his only solo, and his rendition gave me goose bumps and left me wanting more.

On a technical level, I found the Melbourne Town hall not well suited for the sound needed for a work of this stature; the large room created echos in parts. There were also some other difficulties, such as the microphones not been switched on making it had to hear the cast over the orchestra, and some late spotlights struggling to find the performer on the balcony.

For fans of Warlow and Opera you won’t be disappointed, but this is not a musical version of The Titanic the blockbuster movie; My heart will go on does not feature as part of the score. It may have been stronger if it was more reminiscent of the movie.

Titanic-The musical in concert played at the Melbourne Town Hall

Image supplied