Titanique is the most hilarious musical parody to play New York in many a year. Since international superstar Céline Dion only got to sing one song at the end of James Cameron’s blockbuster Titanic, the now iconic “My Heart Will Go On” which went on to win the Academy Award for Best Song, why not turn the film into a cabaret musical with a score made up entirely from the Céline Dion catalog? That is just what Marla Mindelle, Constantine Rousouli and Tye Blue’s book has uproariously done, casting Mindelle in the leading role as a perfect mimic of Céline Dion, Rousouli as hero Jack Dawson, and Blue directing the show. Whether you recall the film from 25 years ago or not, the satire is pungent and the jokes skewer many pop culture icons.
When the audience takes their seats, they are confronted with a giant replica of the blue diamond “Heart of the Ocean” necklace that plays so prominent a part in the story. The show begins with a tour of the Titanic Museum interrupted by an old lady who, throwing off her shroud, turns out to be a glamorously dressed Céline Dion who wants to tell the true story of the Titanic: she was on board back in 1912 and she proceeds to tell her version. Even her ending is somewhat different from the one that concluded the film, making her the heroine of the story.
Dressed in a gold sequined sheath slit up the front, and speaking in an exaggerated French-Canadian accent, Mindelle/Céline conjures all the main characters who board what she refers to as Titanique: millionaire Cal Hockley (John Riddle), his aristocratic fiancée Rose DeWitt Bukater (Alex Ellis), her impoverished but imperious mother Ruth (played by Ryan Duncan in partial drag), the unsinkable Molly Brown (Kathy Deitch mimicking Kathy Bates who played the role in the film), “Victor Garber” as actor Victor Garber who played architect Thomas Andrews in the film but here also plays Captain Smith (Frankie Grande) and poor artist Jack Dawson who wins his steerage ticket in a poker game (Rousouli).
The story covers all of the most salient points in the movie: Jack saving Rose from jumping off the prow of the ship, the dinner at which he is invited to the first class dining room, his drawing Rose in her stateroom wearing nothing but the Heart of the Ocean necklace, his being caught with the necklace in his pocket, the iceberg hitting the ship, etc. Seventeen songs from the Céline Dion catalog have been arranged and orchestrated by musical director Nicholas James Connell. Jack and Rose’s duets “Taking Chances,” “If You Asked Me To,” “To Love You More,” and “Because You Loved Me” are all interrupted by Celine Dion who hilariously interjects herself into their songs – and kisses.
As a serenade to Jack, Rose and Cal, she also has an opportunity to sing Menken and Ashman’s “Beauty and The Beast” as a duet with Peabo Bryson just as she did on her famous recording. “River Deep, Mountain High” becomes a lip synch contest by the six leads officiated by “Tina Turner” à la Ru Paul’s Drag Race to see who gets to leave in a lifeboat. Other iconic Céline Dion songs shoehorned into the story line include “I’m Alive,” “Tell Him,” “I Surrender,” “All By Myself” and “A New Day Has Come” at emotional high points.
Anachronistic references to pop culture keep popping up throughout the show: Broadway musicals (The Newsies, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Chicago), movies and television shows (The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Kung Fu Panda 2, Peter Pan, Alias, Vicky Christina Barcelona), musical stars (Britney Spears, Tina Turner, Jessica Alba), stores (Forever 21, Jared’s Jewelers) and many more.
The cast is completely attuned to the authors and the director’s sense of humor, and all have excellent voices. The standout, of course, is Mindelle’s terrific impersonation of Céline Dion which also includes the parody of her off stage banter. As Rose, Ellis is even more naïve and curious than she is required to be. Rousouli’s Jack is a stalwart, self-confident, self-effacing hero. As the abusive Cal, Riddle plays him as a handsome egotistical, metrosexual who may or may not be wearing full face makeup. Duncan is a hoot as the stuck up Ruth Dewitt Bukater, who looks down her nose at everything.
Grande, the half-brother of the singing superstar, plays both Jack’s friend, the bubbly Luigi (from Mario Kart in Nintendo) and the authoritative “Victor Garber” dressed as the captain of the ship. Deitch as Molly Brown (the only historical character in the show) takes her cue from Kathy Bates who created the role in the film as a practical, down-to-earth doyenne of prudent wisdom. Stealing every scene he is in, Jaye Alexander as the show’s jack of all trades plays the museum tour guide, the Seaman, an Irish Lady, Peabo Bryson, Tina Turner – and The Iceberg. The three-person backup group (Courtney Bassett, Donnie Hammond, and Dimitri Moise) give superb singing support, as well as appearing in crowd scenes.
Staged in the new Asylum NYC theatre (formerly the home of the Upright Citizen’s Brigade), the show is performed cabaret style with the four-piece orchestra on stage and the ship’s picture windows behind them and platforms before them in Iron Bloom Creative Productions’ appropriate unit setting enhanced by various set pieces, including Eric Reynolds’ always amusing props. Alejo Vieti’s attractive costumes recreate the Edwardian Era of the film as well as giving Mindelle Céline Dion’s iconic look, aided by Tommy Kurzman’s hair and make-up design. Paige Seber’s lighting design always focuses attention on the right spot on the wide stage. Lawrence Schober is responsible for the excellent sound design. As a musical concert and a film parody, Titanique is terrific entertainment for all ages.
Titanique (extended through September 29, 2024)
Daryl Roth Theatre, 101 E. 15th Street
For tickets, visit http://www.titaniquemusical.com
Running time: one hour and 55 minutes without an intermission