NEW YORK CITY — When an out-of-towner theatre lover comes for a whirlwind weekend in New York City, they have their sights set on Broadway. However, throughout the city and surrounding boroughs is a world of theatrical opportunity just waiting to be consumed for the adventurous theatre goer. Much of it is also more affordable and can be just as interesting and entertaining. For my last show of my trip with the American Theatre Critics Association, I ventured downtown to the Daryl Roth Theatre, a fantastic building in Union Square that was historically a bank. I went there to see the hit parody Titanique, which is a wild ride where Celine Dion (played by Jackie Burns) enters into a Titanic museum and proceeds to tell the real story of what happened on the Titanic, complete with a tour of all of Celine’s most famous songs. If this sounds crazy, you are not wrong.
With a book by Marla Mindelle, Constantine Rousouli, and Tye Blue, and musical arrangements by Nicholas Connell, this production directed by Tye Blue and choreographed by Ellenore Scott is an absolute hoot. At 90 minutes with no intermission and a smaller price point than most Broadway shows, Titanique can be a great choice for audiences, especially for a Sunday night when many other shows are dark.
If there was a Venn diagram for the demographic that this show was made for, Maren Scriven Swensen might fit right in the middle. The movie Titanic came out the December after I graduated from high school and was a big deal. I also was very much a Celine Dion fan girl, and had all of her CDs in the ’90s and “turn of the millennium.” In 1997, I also took my first trip to New York City and saw the Titanic musical, which built within me a fascination of the actual history of the Titanic. To top it all off, nothing makes me happier than well done parody.
Compared to the glitz and glamour of Broadway houses, the Daryl Roth has the familiar bleacher risers of the theatre companies and schools of Utah. However, their merch shop was well stocked with excellent items, and I did not walk away empty handed.
The set, designed by Garbriel Hainer Evansohn and Grace Laubacher, starts out with just a simple concert stage (with amusing iceberg touches) and a sparkly disco ball shaped like the film’s famous blue hope diamond necklace. Burns even makes a joke in the show that the show was done on the set of Anything Goes, and I would 100 percent believe it. The jokes in the production were abundant and fantastic. Some of the humor was not family-friendly, and Titanique would not be a good choice for anyone sensitive to content of that nature.
Burns as a Dion impersonator was impeccable. Whenever she was singing, I could close my eyes and believe I was at a Celine Dion concert. However, it was Burns’s improv and humor that really captivated. There were two specific moments where I know she must have been somewhat off script because the people playing Jack and Rose, (Michael Williams and Lindsay Heather Pearce, respectively) could not keep a straight face.
The live music provided by a small band on stage added so much to the fun of Titanique, especially because the actors interacted with them throughout the show. Music director Nicholas Connell and Yoonah Oh were on keyboards, with Matt Watson at the drums and Alex Mak at guitar. It is always impressive to me that it only takes four musicians to make a theatre production so much more enjoyable and special than a show with recorded music.
Even though Titanique is an off-Broadway parody, the skill and talent was on par with the Broadway shows I saw this weekend. Seeing it was a good reminder of the sheer amount talent available in New York and that there are not enough Broadway roles for every superb actor in the city. For example, Anne Fraser Thomas, who played a parody of the unsinkable Molly Brown, sang a rendition of “All By Myself” so eloquently that I was wishing for a recording. Additionally, the choreography by Scott was so lively and energetic that I felt vicariously exhausted for the performers.