“Shall we go for it?” asks Marla Mindelle’s Celine Dion. You’d be mad not to.
Celine Dion and Titanic fit together so seamlessly it seems strange to imagine a time when the catastrophic 1912 sinking of the “unsinkable ship” that led to the deaths of over 1,500 people wasn’t met with at least a quiet hum of “My Heart Will Go On”. In fact, all of Celine’s catalogue is so delightfully cinematic and dramatic, her songs fit a retelling of 1997’s 11-time Academy Award winning Titanic perfectly. Writers Marla Mindelle, Constantine Rousouli and Tye Blue are wise enough to realise, however, that with the intense camp energy created by even one Celine song, this musical endeavour could never be anything other than a farcical, bonkers, madcap dash through perhaps one of the most iconic – sorry, iconique – stories ever told which also somehow has Celine Dion in it as a character?
It is indescribably bizarre and yet side-splittingly hilarious. Titanique begins its incredibly meta, self-referential and fourth-wall-breaking tale within the confines of the Titanic museum, in which a tour is interrupted by Ms Celine Dion (Marla Mindelle) herself, who dogmatically insists on retelling the story of Titanic herself, entirely ignoring protests that she was not there personally.
We are introduced to the world of Titanic through Ms Dion’s eyes, roguish Jack (Constantine Rousouli) reduced to a hair flipping, foppish himbo, while John Riddle‘s Cal is far more acerbic and bitchy than Billy Zane’s. Ryan Duncan perfectly encapsulates Rose’s mother Ruth through wistfully proclaiming “Oh what a day to be rich” as well as calling her wayward daughter a “festering queef” (which, judging by Alex Ellis‘s alarmed reaction and near-immediate corpsing was almost definitely not in the script).
To place into context, this is a show in which Frankie Grande – playing a character called Victor Garber – belts “I Drove All Night” before careening the ship into an iceberg. An iceberg (Jaye Alexander) that then instigates a “Lipsync For Your Life…boats” amongst the Titanic’s passengers – after singing “River Deep, Mountain High” (which Celine Dion is keen to explain she has sung live). It is also a show where the Unsinkable Molly Brown (Kathy Deitch) sings “All By Myself” while paddling treacherous waters. And a show where stage slaps manage to have impact even when the two characters are on entirely opposite sides of the stage, and where Ruth can give an entirely in character command of “strike that bench” – not to mention Celine Dion randomly wandering on at the end of musical numbers that she wasn’t a part of to humbly and sincerely utter “thank you so much”.
What is more alarming is perhaps just how ridiculously talented singers all of the cast are, even while testing the audience’s pelvic floor strength. The musical arrangements by Nicholas James Connell are genuinely beautiful. “Because You Loved Me” gets a particularly propulsive base line added to it that this reviewer could certainly have used more of. Throughout, Marla Mindelle‘s Celine Dion impression is spot on, affecting all of her well-ridiculed mannerisms as well as being able to deliver vocally. Her improvised section, including Alex Ellis and Constantine Rousouli‘s baffled reactions was one of the highlights of the performance.
It is a theatrical experience that simply must be seen to be believed. With the production announcing an extension into November, Titanique is an absolute must-see. May this show be as unsinkable as her namesake. Or, rather, more.
Titanique is currently playing at Asylum NYC until November. You can book tickets here.