Arts

Titanic The Musical to dock at Belfast's Grand Opera House this April

Titanic The Musical is coming to Belfast this April with a stage production which promises to be an emotional rollercoaster. Joanne Sweeney spoke to director Thom Sutherland

The Titanic musical is coming to Belfast's Grand Opera House in April

TITANIC, the ‘boat of dreams', will dock at its historical home of Belfast in April as the story of the greatest vessel of its era is told in song and dance.

The Titanic tragedy has captured the hearts and imagination of people around the world since it sank on April 14 1912: the Belfast-built ship hit an iceberg, with a loss of 1,517 men, women and children on board.

Built by highly skilled Harland and Wolff shipyard workers over three years, the Titanic was viewed as the "one of the wonders of the world" at the time and was seen by families and individuals who saved up to sail on her as a way to get a new life in the New World of America.

This production of Titanic the Musical tells of the hopes and dreams of the passengers who were on the ship that fateful night when it sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

It plays at the Grand Opera House, Belfast from April 24 to 28 as part of a major tour of Britain and Ireland, finishing in Dublin at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from May 15 to 19.

Written by acclaimed New York composer Maury Yeston based on the book by Peter Stone, the original 1997 Broadway production won five Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book.

Directed by Thom Southerland and produced by Danielle Tarento and Steven Levy, the trio were in Belfast last week to give a glimpse of what local audiences can expect of the two-hour-45- minute musical.

Bray-born Niall Sheehy, who plays Barrett the stoker and, Oliver Marshall who plays Bride, the ship's telegram operator, gave a moving performance of two show songs, The Proposal and The Night Was Alive, in front of the grand replica staircase in the Belfast Titanic museum.

Belfast writer and historian Allison Murphy from the Belfast Titanic Society spoke of how the city was regarded as an “industrial powerhouse of the world” at the turn of 20th century.

She told the press reception: “Titanic was built right here in Belfast. That is a fact that we should marvel at, but we don't. We just accept it.”

Repeating the oft-used Belfast expression about the Titanic, ‘she was all right when she left here', Allison reminded the audience that the building of the boat was regarded as “one of the wonders of the world.”

“The ships that were built here were built by the brilliance of the designers and the men who built them,” she added.

A 25-strong cast of actors will perform over 50 roles, covering the individual stories of the First Class, Second Class and Third Class passengers and the hundreds of staff who worked on the boat on its maiden voyage.

As the Titanic hits the iceberg at the end of the first half and the story moves on to the final demise of the ship, one of the most moving moments is the duet between Isidor and Ida Straus, an American couple who had been married for over 40 years and who both opted to go down with the ship that night.

Isidor was the co-owner of the famous Macy's department store in New York.

Director Thom Sutherland, who was in Belfast last summer with his Angela's Ashes musical production, also staged at the GOH, spoke of his delight to be back at “the home of the Titanic”.

“Titanic is Belfast and Belfast is Titanic – they are so incredibly linked.

“I can't say how delighted I am to be here with a show that has meant so much personally to me over the last five years."

The director successfully staged the musical in London's Charing Cross Theatre, where he is artistic director, for 10 weeks in 2015.

He believes that this production is different to James Cameron's telling of the Titanic story in his 1997 blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

“James Cameron's movie is very much an action disaster movie. He doesn't shy away from any of the horrific events that happened on that voyage but the musical couldn't be further from that, actually.

“This is based on the real life human events behind what it took to build the ship to begin with, the sheer legend of it and the ambition they would build the largest moving vessel in the world, the idea of this ship of dreams, and a boat where all classes of people would literally take the trip of a lifetime to the New World, into the unknown.

“The essential ingredients of a musical have to be hope, dreams and inspiration – and there is no other single event in the 20th century which encompasses all of that in one go, which is why this story is so unique."

:: Titanic The Musical runs at the Grand Opera House, Belfast from April 24 to 28. Tickets available via GOH.co.uk

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