Theatre Review: Titanique (Daryl Roth Theatre, New York) ★★★★

As I prepared to step aboard the good ship Titanique (currently docked at New York’s Daryl Roth Theatre), I had a sinking feeling—not due to a fear of icebergs—but because I thought I’d already seen enough Off-Broadway comedy musicals to last for a lifetime. Turns out this one is different. It’s a loving parody of the epic movie Titanic—which will receive a twenty fifth anniversary cinema rerelease next month—that centres Céline Dion (Marla Mindelle) as an unreliable narrator recounting her memories of what really went down that fateful night in April, 1912, using her greatest hits to tell the tale.

Titanique runs Off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre until May 14th, 2023. Photo by David Kraus.

Dion’s songs, with all the drama and signature passionate delivery, make her back catalogue—including “I’m Alive, “All By Myself”, “To Love You More,” and of course “My Heart Will Go On”—ideal for the stage, and Mindelle has the vocal chops, and then some, to take them on. Leading a terrifically talented ensemble, Mindelle not only impresses with her singing ability, but manages to be hilarious without there being an ounce of mean-spiritedness towards the icon in her charterisation. It’s a playful, joyful tribute that’s just heightened enough, in terms of her accent and physical gestures, to make it funny, while the emotional core of her performance still feels truthful, and is even touching at times. The show also manages to be consistently amusing, and frequently downright hysterical, as it riffs on famous scenes from the film, without making fun of the movie itself. The jokes come more from the show’s imaginative, and very gay, take on it. Essentially, if you’re a diehard fan of either Céline or Titanic—or both—there’s nothing to stop you having a darn good night out at Titanique, and if you’re not into either but you have a functioning sense of humour, you’ll likely likewise have a blast.

Titanique runs Off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre until May 14th, 2023. Photo by David Kraus.

The company, including the background vocalists and even a band member (this is Off-Braodway after all, so everyone gets roped in), is so outrageously good in terms of their singing, acting, and comedy skills, with several cast members taking on multiple roles, that it feels unfair to single any of them out. But Russell Daniels, with an air of Louis Anderson as Christine in Baskets, deserves a special mention as Rose’s scheming, perpetually horny mother Ruth Dewitt Bukater, while Constantine Rousouli and Carrie St. Louis make for an adorable Jack and Rose, striking the perfect balance of being entirely committed to the material while allowing themselves to break character now and then as they soak up the blissful silliness and absurdity of it all. The steaming hot chemistry though comes courtesy of the devilishly handsome duo of Jack and Rose’s fiancé Cal—or should that be cad—(Mark Evans), who’s obsessed with making it to New York early in time for a hair appointment in SoHo, and has his Grindr notifications on with his cellphone volume up to the max. Avionce Hoyles is a ball of infectious energy and makes a massive impact as The Iceberg (yes, the iceberg!) in the guise of a rock ‘n’ roll diva; Desireé Rodriguez’s Unsinkable Molly Brown is wonderfully warm and inappropriate; and the dashing Ken Wulf Clark has some great showstealing moments as the Captain, Victor Garber (a role that will be taken on by Drag Race star Rosé from January 26th) who’s determined to make a Fire Island pitstop before arriving in Manhattan.

Titanique runs Off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre until May 14th, 2023. Photo by David Kraus.

My fears about the production were almost immediately assuaged when I entered the theatre and saw the giant, disco ball-like, glittering heart of the ocean (designed by Eric Reynolds) gloriously dangling in front of the curtain. It was at once beautifully crafted, and camp as Christmas, which pretty much sums up the show that followed once the curtain rose. The tight and witty book by Mindelle, Rousouli, and Tye Blue—who also directs—touches on a cornucopia of pop culture references, many of which will particularly resonate with queer audiences, and I’ll leave you to the delight of discovering them for yourself. While Blue directs with precision, he also creates a sense that certain scenes and speeches are being improvised, which really helps things fizz and keeps the show feeling immediate and fresh. On the night I saw it, one line that got a huge reaction was a comment on Dion being unceremoniously left off Rolling Stone’s recent list of The 200 Greatest Singers of All Time. There are also plenty of laughs to be had courtesy of Ellenore Scott’s character-led choreography and the show’s staging, like the inventive recreation of the movie’s steamy car window sequence. The gorgeous simplicity and versatility of Gabriel Hainer Evansohn and Grace Lauchbacher’s set design also impresses.

Titanique runs Off-Broadway at the Daryl Roth Theatre until May 14th, 2023. Photo by David Kraus.

Titanique is fast becoming an Off-Broadway fixture since world premiering at the Asylum Theater last June, a run that was twice extended before its transfer to the current larger venue of the Daryl Roth in November. In the works for several years, there’s also been an award-winning live-streamed concert and pop-ups of the concert version in LA and New York. All that experience is evident in every aspect of this production, especially its sound, with music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations by Nicholas Connell. Everything else might be a joke, but the quality of the band and vocals is deadly serious.

Even if you have to beat a couple of Swedes in a portside game of poker for a ticket—and slum it in third-class—near, far, wherever you are, get yourself to New York’s Daryl Roth Theatre to experience Titanique, a show so ridiculous that it is pure comedy genius. In fact, c’est fantastique!

By James Kleinmann

The limited Off-Broadway engagment of Titanique has been extended through May 14th, 2023
at New York’s Daryl Roth Theatre. Tickets are available from $58-$140 at TitaniqueMusical.com.

A slay-tastique Reopening | TITANIQUE

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