Titanic The Musical at The King’s Theatre is the 2017 production from Edinburgh’s “The Southern Light Opera Company”. This company is Edinburgh’s oldest operatic society dating back to 1897 and their name derives from the fact that the majority of its founding members came from the south side of the city.
The first thing to clear up is that this production is Titanic The Musical with music and lyrics by Maury Yeston and book by Peter Stone which opened in Broadway in 1997, and not an adaptation of the huge Hollywood blockbuster film starring Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet from the same year. Both feature songs, both focus on the characters from all classes sailing on The Titanic, but they are completely different products. “Southern Light” could I suppose easily have adapted the film (if the rights were available), but the choice to keep with the theatrical production is a wise one as it is a very good story with very good stage songs...and of course is designed for the theatre.
The second thing of note is that despite their name, “Southern Light” are not travelling light with Titanic. This is a large scale production with a lot of cast members in the big crowd scenes and production numbers, and every one of them is a splash of period colour and costume. You really do get some sense of crowds and the grandeur of the 1st class passengers. Sets are functionally stripped down at times as you might expect (the original Broadway production spent vast amounts on its sets), but more than functional enough to fit the scene and just as good as many a professional production that I have seen.
Taking the story of the doomed White Star Liner “The Titanic” as a production was always going to be a bit of a risk...in the first instance, everyone in the audience will probably know what happened in the end (if not the events leading up to it), and secondly, if the show does not work, then reviewers simply won’t be able to miss all those “sinking without a trace” references. Fortunately, Southern Light need not worry about either here as the story and the individual characters are strong enough to hold your attention, and this is a very good production.
The success of this production depends ultimately on the cast and a lot of that will always rest on the main characters, and in a large cast like this it is impossible to mention everyone in this review, but special note of course goes to the main crew and some of the main characters
Captain E.J. Smith – David McBain
1st Officer, William Murdoch – Scott Walker
2nd Officer Charles Lightoller – Andrew Williamson
3rd Officer Herbert J. Pitman – Darren Johnson
Harold Bride – Radio Man – John Bruce
Frederick Barrett - Stoker – Craig Young
J. Bruce Ismay –White Star Line owner - Charles Leeson-Payne
Thomas Andrews –Ship designer– Keith Kilgore
The Three Kates from Third class
Kate McGowan – Nicole Graham
Kate Mullins – Holly Carter
Kate Murphey – Tanya Williamson
There are some very strong songs in this production “Godspeed Titanic”, “Doing The Latest Rag” and “The Blame” are only a few of them. For me though the most heart-felt song of the show is “Still” the duet between Isidor Straus (David Mitchinson) and Ida Straus (Dorothy Johnstone) as they decide not to be parted from one another even in the face of an impending and certain death.
To find out more about “The Southern Light Opera Company”, their history, present and past productions, and their charity work visit
In this review I have deliberately said little about the actual events of The Titanic itself as they are so well known to so many people and a quick internet search reveals a wealth of information on the subject and the many conflicting theories of what actually happened. The one thing that is so obvious of course was the lack of lifeboats for any such emergency…a lack built into a ship’s design which from the outset valued profit over the lives of the passengers, and in an emergency (which no one thought could ever happen) would simply value the limited spaces available for escape according to the class of passenger you were and the price you had paid. This production gives us some idea of the rigid class structure that was present on board the Titanic and just how limited access to the whole ship and any way off in an emergency was for third class passengers.
A nice touch at the end is the projection of the names all those who lost their lives in this disaster - 1517 men, women and children.
Review by Tom King