The world has a new Titanic musical.
Italy's version is the work of Federico Bellone who wrote the book, lyrics and music, and is also the show's director. It is inevitably derivative with references to the DiCaprio/Winslett blockbuster and the 1997 Broadway Tony-winning musical. It is also unfortunate that the main theme (yes, ‘Titanic') sounds very much like ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye' from Sunset Boulevard, and Madame Duval (the domineering mother of an opera-singer on board) is very similar to Phantom of the Opera‘s Madame Giry, but the intentions are good and the cast is strong.
It starts, very effectively, with Bruce Ismay, the director of the White Star Line, standing behind a model of the ship, as he fends off reporters' questions which are shouted out from amongst the audience. The Titanic has sunk, lives have been lost, but Ismay defends his company and its decisions. In flashback we go on board and at one point Ismay, oddly, performs a rather camp and flamboyant musical show-stopper finishing with a nod to Julie Andrews singing ‘Le Jazz Hot' from Victor Victoria. Luckily Ismay is played by the extremely talented Marco D'Alberti, a true all-rounder (not all that common in Italy), who manages to dominate the stage without ever being inappropriate.
In the “DiCaprio” role is a well-known tv soap charmer, Danilo Brugia, who actually has a voice and is well cast, though Valentina Spalletta, as “Winslett” the opera-singer, is good but anonymous. Luca Giacomelli as the Irish lad heading out to reunite with his girl is bubbling with energy, and veteran actress Nicoletta Ramorino is touching as she refuses her place in a lifeboat to stay with her husband on the sinking vessel.
Hella Mombrini and Silvia Silvestri have created simple but effective sets, though cramped into the tiny stage of Milan's Teatro Nuovo it was difficult to judge whether they had been realised on a very tight budget, or if alterations had been necessary to squash it all in.
This is not Broadway, but Titanic: il racconto di un sogno (‘the story of a dream') is an entertaining show with a good pace and an enthusiastic cast who put their all into every moment, and the audience rewarded them accordingly.
Photos by Roberto Finizio – top photo: Danilo Brugia and Luca Giacomelli dreaming of America
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.