Tag Archives: Thom Southerland

REVIEW: Titanic The Musical – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s Titanic: The Musical first appeared on Broadway in 1997, winning five Tony Awards in the process. Director Thom Southerland’s stripped back production, first seen at the Southwark Playhouse in 2013, was revived to great acclaim in 2016, and is now touring the UK.

While the subject matter may seem unlikely (an event where 1517 people lost their lives), even morbid, composer Yeston has himself claimed that the musical isn’t based on tragedy alone. Instead, it represents the hopes and dreams of all those on board: the 3rd Class passengers, their dreams of immigration to a new life; those in 2nd Class with their aspirations to live life like those in 1st Class; the 1st Class passengers hoping to forever maintain their positions of privilege in the New World. Writer Peter Stone achieves this. There’s yearning, optimism and a finger firmly on the pulse of society (both high and low) in the early years of the 20th Century.

It also neatly catalogues the seemingly endless list of wrong decisions that set the ship on its tragic course, the desire to make history eerily prophetic: ignoring warnings not to push the ship hard; constantly pushing the speed; ignoring almost constant warnings of icebergs from fellow ships on the same journey; the feeling of invincibility over common sense; changing course to save a few hours (to get some publicity) which puts the ship on a collision course with tragedy, the list is too long to chart here. This is a work of infinite quality, wonderfully researched, that manages to stir the heart and soul. These are the stories of the real people who boarded the ship for that fateful journey, this is no lazy dramatization.

Whilst written by Americans, this is a uniquely British story. Stylistically the music too is quintessentially British: heavily influenced by both Elgar and Vaughan Williams it is simply beautiful. The ensemble shine and when singing as one, have the ability to raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

In a cast that is uniformly excellent, it seems churlish to single out any member but Matthew McKenna as First Class Steward Henry Etches is an actor of exceptional quality, who is infinitely watchable throughout.

If any criticisms can be levelled at the work it is the sheer number of characters who appear, as each is given their moment, it makes the running time a hefty two hours 40 minutes, that said, this is also laudable as it gives voice and equal weight to every type of passenger and crew. The actors do a fine good job of paying respectful tribute to these real people’s lives, Titanic – The Musical truly has the power to move.

Don’t be put off by the subject matter or puerile previous adaptations of the story on screen, this is a respectful, perfectly judged piece of writing that packs an emotional punch.

Runs until 26 June 2018 | Image: Scott Rylander

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

 

REVIEW: The Smallest Show on Earth – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Adapted from the 1957 British Lion film of the same name, with the classic hits of Irving Berlin weaved around the action, The Smallest Show on Earth is a wonderfully charming new musical from the pens of Thom Southerland and Paul Alexander. Packed full of warmth and wit, and executed with energy and enthusiasm by the first-rate cast, it is a welcome addition to the musical theatre canon.

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A classic underdog tale, David faces Goliath when struggling screenwriter Matthew Spenser (Haydn Oakley) and his wife, Jean (Laura Pitt-Pulford), inherit the decrepit Bijou Kinema. Across the road is the shiny new Grand Cinema run by the ruthless Ethel Hardcastle (Ricky Butt), a woman who’ll do anything to annihilate the competition. With employees as decrepit as the building, Jean pulls out all the stops to save the failing fleapit and its inhabitants.

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Set in the late 1950s, the script, set and lighting are beautifully evocative of a bygone era. The tunes, while at first glance a seemingly strange fit for a thoroughly British story, fit seamlessly and, while it would have been nice to have original songs, you know you are on to a winner when the first few bars of these much-loved tunes ring out, and the audience is quietly mouthing every word.

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Much of the success and a whole heap of its charm is due to the faultless cast and there’s a ridiculously high number of standouts: stage and small screen veterans Liza Goddard and Brian Capron as the redoubtable box office battleaxe Mrs Fazackalee and “well-oiled” projectionist Mr Quill lead. Goddard has the lion’s share of the best lines and her comic timing is spot-on and Capron is charming as the permanently sozzled projectionist with a broken heart. Laura Pitt-Pulford’s crystal clear voice is wonderfully era-evocative as is Haydn Oakley’s as husband Matthew. Sam O’Rourke (Tom) and Christina Bennington (Marlene) are utterly irresistible as the young lovers from rival families and are particularly impressive during Steppin’ Out With My Baby as is Matthew Crowe as the solicitor with a hankering for the stage.

Mention must be made too of Lee Proud’s choreography, which is refreshingly original and energetically executed throughout.

Writer/director Southerland has form breathing life into existing musicals and his sure-handedness shows here. This is a heart-warming and utterly charming show, which will have you leaving the theatre with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside – perfect for these cold, autumn evenings.

Runs until 31 October 2015 | Image: Alastair Muir

This article was originally written for and published by http://www.thereviewshub.com at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/the-smallest-show-on-earth-theatre-royal-glasgow/