'Titanique' review — a boatload of campy fun

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    June 23, 2022
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    The new Off-Broadway musical Titanique has a cast and creative team of Broadway vets. But they, led by director/co-writer Tye Blue, also share a background doing pop parody musicals and dinner theatre in LA. This is the cozy, campy world from which Titanique hails, and it's now docked here on the East Coast through September. Don't go expecting a piece of high art or a faithful recreation of the James Cameron film it's based on, but do expect a titanic amount of pure joy.

    You'll get that vibe immediately upon entering the Asylum Theatre — a casual comedy venue that perfectly fits the show — when you hear the pre-show playlist that includes "Bootylicious," "This Will Be," and "We Are Family." Nostalgic-meets-contemporary is the name of the game, and so it is with the 100-minute show that follows.

    Titanique launches from a Titanic museum tour, where visitors are gawking over the Heart of the Ocean (here an oversized Party City decoration). Suddenly, a woman appears and reveals herself to be Celine Dion, shedding her trash-covered cloak to reveal a glittery gold gown that looks like it cost more than the entire rest of the production. She takes over the tour, and the narration of the show, to share what really happened on board the Titanic – namely, to Jack and Rose.

    Her tale is as much a love letter to the Titanic movie as it is to the people obsessed with that movie: pop culture-savvy, queer theatre kids, or so the creators presume from experience. (Happy Pride indeed.) References to TikTok trends (like Julia Fox's pronunciation of "uncut gems") and niche theatre jokes (a life-size Patti LuPone cutout makes multiple appearances) abound. Older and/or less theatre-obsessed audiences will find more of their enjoyment in the recreations of all the major Titanic movie moments and the Dion hits that score the show.

    Some of those songs are more cleverly slotted in than others, but they're all gorgeously performed. The Titanique cast's Broadway-grade talent shines at its fullest through their voices. Rose (Alex Ellis) and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (Kathy Deitch) get the powerhouse duet "Tell Him," which starts as a heartfelt encouragement and ends as an extended innuendo involving an eggplant prop. As a "bedazzled metrosexual" version of Rose's fiance Cal, John Riddle gets a late-show solo that also brings the house down. As Celine, the over-the-top Marla Mindelle harmonizes with nearly everyone's songs (they are technically hers, after all), and though her voice has a different tonal quality than the real Dion's, there's a brief moment in "My Heart Will Go On" when she sounds uncannily like the singer.

    Alongside them, Constantine Rousouli cuts a dashing, boyish figure as Jack (with the same swoopy hair as Titanic-era Leo DiCaprio), and Frankie Grande steals every scene he's in as Victor Garber, a mashup of a few Titanic side characters. Jaye Alexander plays his right-hand seamen (the source of many double entendres) but gets a late showcase as "the Iceberg bitch," who's dressed as Tina Turner and hosts a RuPaul's Drag Race lip-sync battle to decide who will make it on the lifeboat. Because why not?

    Titanique is one of those shows where anything can happen, so it does, up until the final twists that you surely won't see coming. It's best just to grab your friends, grab some drinks (the show sells them in buckets), and just get on board. The cast and creators' enthusiasm is infectious, and if you just let it wash over you, you'll have a boatload of fun.

    Titanique is at the Asylum Theatre through September 25. Get Titanique tickets on New York Theatre Guide.

    Photo credit: Constantine Rousouli, Marla Mindelle & Alex Ellis in Titanique. (Photo by Emilio Madrid)