By: Darryl Reilly
Tina Turner is the fatal iceberg in Titanique, an amusing Off-Broadway musical spoof of the beloved 1997 box-office phenomenon, Titanic. The film’s iconic totem, the blue diamond necklace The Heart of the Ocean, is here oversized, hanging above the stage like a disco ball. “Everybody loves seamen.” “Not lesbians,” and “We’re so poor we have to go to KFC to lick other people’s fingers,” are examples of the unabashedly sophomoric jokes that abound. The show’s mirthful 100 minutes also includes parodies of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Celine Dion commandeers a tour of a Titanic exhibit to tell her side of the story is the conceit. This is achieved through pastiche numbers, exaggerated vignettes taken from the movie, imaginative bits and tangents. Wearing a gold-sequined slit dress while employing a thick French-Canadian accent, the irrepressible Marla Mindelle is perfection with her supreme vocalizing, sharp comic timing and fluid physicality in replicating the pop diva’s campy persona.
Ms. Mindelle co-wrote Titanique’s skillfully knowing book with two other theater veterans, Constantine Rousouli and Tye Blue. Mr. Blue’s panoramic direction along with Ellenore Scott’s fizzy choreography gives the show visual scope, momentum and showcases the cast’s uproarious performances. With great hair, stubble and in slim-fit suspendered khakis, Mr. Rousouli combines handsomeness, goofiness and Leonardo DiCaprio-style shtick for his winning characterization of Jack Dawson.
Alex Ellis is a fetching and wacky Rose. The formidable Kathy Deitch’s Molly Brown hilariously channels Kathy Bates. Ryan Duncan in drag is a battle-axe par excellence as Rose’s mother. The suave John Riddle’s over the top dastardly Cal incites the Titanic’s dangerous speeding so he can keep a Soho hair appointment. Utilizing quick costume changes, the animated Frankie Grande vigorously portrays the sight gag role of Nintendo’s Luigi as well as “Victor Garber,” a composite of four of the movie’s maritime characters. The titanic Jaye Alexander is a standout for his sensational Tina Turner and as several silly figures. Courtney Bassett, Donnie Hammond and Dimitri Moise are the other magnetic ensemble members and are understudies.
At times, on view is the energetic band consisting of music director Nicholas Connell on keyboard, Yoonah Oh on keyboard, Matt Watson on percussion and Matt Wong on guitar.
Iron Bloom Creative Production and scenic designer Gabriel Hainer Evansohn’s shimmering backdrop curtain and the stage’s back wall’s illustrative ship’s window panels are the production’s chief physical features. Sound designer Lawrence Schober crisply renders the musical numbers and effects. The presentation is enhanced by Paige Seber’s zesty lighting design. The unison of Alejo Vietti’s outrageous costumes, Tommy Kurzman’s zany wig and hair design and Eric Reynolds’ cheeky prop design harkens back to fondly remembered Howard Crabtree opuses.
Titanique is a cheery diversion, and its fitting finale is the enthused audience singing along with Celine Dion.
Titanique (through September 25, 2022)
Asylum Theatre, 307 West 26th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit www.titaniquemusical.com
Running time: 100 minutes without an intermission