In the final hour of 14th April 1912, the RMS Titanic,on her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York,collided with an iceberg and ‘the unsinkable ship’ slowly sank.
It was one of the most tragic and infamous disasters of the 20th century with 1517 men, women and children losing their lives.
A musical about such a tragedy might seem incongruous, but Maury Yeston and Peter Stone’s stunning production focuses on the hopes and aspirations of those on board.
Unaware of the fate that awaits them,the Third Class immigrants dream of a better life in America, the newly- enfranchised Second Class dream of achieving the lifestyles of the rich and famous, and the millionaire Barons of the First Class dream of their mastery lasting forever.
Ms Yeston, who wrote the music and lyrics, said it is not so unusual to tell such a dark story in a musical.
“By 1986 musical theatre had turned a corner and was tackling subjects like Victor Hugo and French revolutionaries in Les Miserables and a murderous barber in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. There were dark musicals that had taken tragic or unlikely ideas as their themes. I’ve always felt that things that sound like good ideas for musicals sometimes aren’t and things that sound like very unusual ideas often are.”
She said that although Titanic was the greatest maritime disaster in history it was also a story about our dreams.
“At the end of the greatest industrial revolution in the history of the UK there was a mind set that would actually dare to think, ‘We might be able to build a ship that would become its own lifeboat, that it could not sink’. It’s like the dream of finding a vaccine for smallpox or polio, the dream of curing cancer, of harnessing solar power and helping to save the planet. Mankind has big dreams and every once in a while, despite our good intentions, the dream fails us but that doesn’t make us stop dreaming. I began to think that telling the tale would honour everyone who was aboard the Titanic because the ship carried everybody’s dreams.”
More than 100 years after the ship sank, Titanic is a story that still enthralls people. Ms Yeston said: “It’s a grand story about people’s bravery, cowardice and a coming together of humanity. It’s also a story about how we deal with an emergency, how we deal with potential tragedy and how in the final analysis the human spirit is indomitable under the worst circumstances.
“In terms of the show itself, I feel as a dramatist that if you want to make an historic story into a piece of musical theatre or a play you have to have a beginning, middle and end - which of course the story of Titanic has.
“One of my favourite things in the theatre is when the audience knows a secret that the people on stage don’t know themselves. What I found when I started developing the show with Peter Stone (who wrote the book) was that until the ship hit the iceberg the passengers were having the time of their lives. The audience comes into the theatre already knowing the ending but when you have a character kissing his girlfriend goodbye and saying, ‘I’ll be back in a fortnight,’ the audience goes, ‘Oh my God I know what’s going to happen but he doesn’t’.”
Ms Yeston hopes that audiences will be uplifted by witnessing what the human spirit can do to survive and to collaborate in helping each other.
Titanic The Musical is coming to the Royal and Derngate in Northampton from Monday June 25 - Saturday June 30. Box office 01604 624811 or book online at www.royalandderngate.co.uk