Tag Archives: Timothy Quinlan

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: Mack and Mabel – The Playhouse, Edinburgh

The original 1974 Broadway production of Mack and Mabel had such a critical mauling that it lasted only 66 performances. Jonathan Church’s revival, (with a revised book) for Chichester Festival Theatre, currently touring the UK, has well and truly laid those demons to rest.

michael ball mack n mabel

Despite its reputation as a musical tragedy, recounting as it does, the doomed relationship between egomaniacal, single-minded, silent film director Mack Sennett (Michael Ball) and deli-worker turned movie star, Mabel Normand (Rebecca LaChance), this is a surprisingly upbeat, and thoroughly entertaining show.

rebecca la chance

To its credit, it doesn’t shy away from the less palatable aspects of the pair’s tumultuous lives; Sennett’s bullying and scant regard for those around him and Normand’s drug and alcohol addiction are all shown here. As a musical theatre hero, Sennett certainly falls short, effectively illustrated in his relationship with the young office assistant who went on to become the legendary Frank Capra, who delivers some home truths to Sennett about his part in Normand’s downfall. It’s a refreshing change from the usual musical theatre fodder.

bathing beauties

Ball has proven his dramatic worth since his role as Sweeney Todd, and he is exceptional here. Never trying to get the audience on his side, he is uncompromising, playing the character as it is; big, bold, brash and bullying. LaChance is a delightful Mabel, her wide-eyed charm and grating Noo Yawk accent, well-judged.

There is fabulous attention to detail in every aspect of this production. Jerry Herman’s knock-out score is brilliantly played by the outstanding band and the ensemble sound stunning when singing as one. Robert Jones wonderfully ingenious set and costume designs are dazzling. The use of projections is among the best I’ve ever seen, being both original and witty and Stephen Mears choreography is a delight, visually stunning and inventive.

MACK AND MABEL2 manuel harlan

There are some glorious set pieces here: the ‘Roman’ movie scene, the bathing beauties and the brilliant Keystone Cops are particular highlights.

keystone cos

I often find that the mark of a truly great show is how quickly time passes – and this whipped along at a break-neck pace. Stunning to look at and listen to, this truly is a five-star production.

Runs at the Playhouse, Edinburgh until Saturday 22 November 2015