Titanic, the Broadway musical, set sail on its maiden voyage last night, came perilously close to those icebergs called critics and may not have picked up enough steam to book an extended passage, if you catch our drift.

The all-important New York Times review said the show "never left port" overall but called its best point its capacity to "squeeze in a vast roster of characters, assorted chunks of technological and historical information, slews of statistics and themes ranging from class conflict to human hubris, all with minimal confusion."

"Minimal confusion"--now there's a line for the posters!

Other critics, like Daily Variety's, had mixed, feelings, too. "Neither disaster nor marvel," said the trade paper's scribe. But the USA Today review was just one long torpedo: "A megaflop," it concluded.

The production opened on schedule, despite the foreboding of "theater disaster cultists," as the Times called them, who thought the complex sets couldn't be assembled in time. That's more than can be said for the film Titanic (estimated budget: $200 million) now struggling to make a summer debut. Still, with a $10 million budget and only $2 million in advance sales, its nail-biting time for the producers.

The focus of the show swings from the ship's designer to wealthy passengers living it up to poor immigrants in steerage, all set to music which the Times described as often verging on the ominousness of the soundtrack to Jaws. In the climactic moment, a silence comes over the stage as the engines quit, one couple sings a touching farewell duet--and the ship's architect goes down spouting what USA Today called "cheap rhymes."

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