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A ‘Titanic’ Parody Show That Draws Fans Near, Far, Wherever They Are

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On a recent Tuesday night on the Daryl Roth Theater in Union Square, temperatures outside hovered within the mid-30s, but inside, a couple of hundred 30-somethings in sailor hats were sipping “Iceberg” cocktails and grooving to Lizzo’s “Juice.” A gleaming silver and blue tinsel heart hung suspended above the stage like a disco ball.

After which: The girl they were waiting for arrived.

“It’s me, Céline Dion,” said Marla Mindelle, certainly one of the writers and stars of the “Titanic” musical parody show “Titanique,” casting aside a black garbage bag cloak to disclose a shimmering gold gown — a nod to the witch’s entrance from “Into the Woods” — and sashaying her option to the stage to a tidal wave of applause.

The sold-out crowd of 270, who sported tight green sequin dresses, black leather jackets and hot pink glasses, had gathered for a special performance commemorating the twenty fifth anniversary of the 1997 blockbuster film, set to hits from Dion’s catalog. Since opening at Asylum NYC’s 150-seat basement theater in Chelsea in June, due to strong word of mouth and a passionate social media following, the show has been consistently sold out.

“The movie and Céline are still within the zeitgeist,” said Constantine Rousouli, who plays “Titanique”’s romantic male lead, Jack, and created the show with Mindelle and Tye Blue, who also directs.

The show has won praise for its campy tone, improvised moments and energetic solid, and has cultivated a fan army of “TiStaniques,” a few of whom have seen the 100-minute show greater than a dozen times.

“It’s crammed with a lot joy and heart and just dumb fun,” said Ryan Bloomquist, 30, who works in Broadway marketing and has seen the show five times.

The Canadian superstar has won over fans along with her octave-hopping renditions of songs like “Because You Loved Me” and “My Heart Will Go On.”

  • Rare Disorder Diagnosis: Celine Dion announced that she had a neurological condition often called stiff person syndrome, which forced her to cancel and reschedule dates on her planned 2023 tour.
  • Quebec’s Love Will Go On: The extraordinary outpouring in Quebec that greeted Dion’s announcement showed how her fandom, and concepts of national identity in her home province, have evolved.
  • A Consummate Skilled: At a concert in Brooklyn in 2020, the pop diva was fully accountable for her glorious voice — and the group gathered to bask in it.
  • Adored by Fans: Dion can count on among the most loyal supporters within the industry. In return, she gives all of herself to them.

Partially improvised and best enjoyed with a drink in hand, “Titanique,” which retells the story of “Titanic” from Dion’s perspective and thru her music, began life as you would possibly expect: during a drunken discussion between Mindelle, 38 (Broadway’s “Sister Act” and “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella”), and Rousouli (“Wicked,” “Hairspray”), 34, at a bar in Los Angeles in 2016.

Rousouli and Mindelle, a fellow “Titanic” fan, had grow to be friends while doing dinner theater and pop parody musicals in Los Angeles. And now, Rousouli had an idea: What in the event that they did a “Titanic” parody musical — using Dion’s songs — and made the Canadian singer herself a personality within the show?

He said he thought, “She’s just going to narrate the show like ‘Joseph,’” referring to the 1968 Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” (It was during this same conversation, he said, that the trash bag entrance idea in the primary scene got here to life.)

Convinced they were onto something, Mindelle and Rousouli worked with Blue, 42, an acquaintance from the Los Angeles dinner theater circuit, to put in writing a script. (The music supervisor Nicholas Connell, 35, did the arrangements and orchestrations.)

“I never considered myself a author,” Rousouli said in a energetic conversation earlier this month with Mindelle, Blue and Connell within the theater’s basement bar space. “People ask me now, ‘What was the method like?’ And it was like I closed my eyes, and impulsively there was draft there and I’d written this whole musical.” They wrote the initial book in a month and a half, he said.

They began doing pop-up live shows of the show-in-progress at small venues around Los Angeles in 2017 after which Latest York the subsequent yr. The primary performances were bare-bones affairs, with no set or costumes and, in response to Mindelle, a “really bad” Dion accent in the primary readings. But audiences loved them — and plenty of got here back for a second or third time.

After a pandemic delay, they opened the primary fully staged production of “Titanique” on the Asylum in June. The primary month was a bit of scary, Blue said, with entire rows sitting empty. But by July, due to social media buzz, they were selling out shows. It helped that Frankie Grande, who recently had his final performance in the twin role of Jack’s pal Luigi and the Canadian actor Victor Garber, has a famous half sister, Ariana, who gave the show a shout-out after attending.

“Social media and word of mouth has just been wildfire for us,” Mindelle said.

Soon, celebrities were coming to see it, amongst them Garber, who played the shipbuilder Thomas Andrews within the film, and Lloyd Webber.

“He checked out us and he goes, ‘You’re all mad,’” Rousouli said, affecting a British accent in imitation of Lloyd Webber. “I said, ‘Cool, thanks, we’re.’”

The production’s scrappy spirit remained when it moved to the larger Daryl Roth Theater in November, where the show now features richer sound and around 100 more seats.

“I used to be afraid we were going to lose that sense of intimacy and charm,” Mindelle said. “But we’re now running within the audience the whole time; I can still make eye contact with people, I can still touch every one.”

A part of the appeal, said Ty Hanes, 29, a musical theater actor who has gone 13 times, is that no two performances are the identical. He looks forward to seeing what Mindelle will do within the five-minute scene between Rose and Jack that she improvises every night (a few of his favorites: a bit a couple of toenail falling off and a riff on Spam, the tinned pork product).

“You’ll be able to tell they only have a blast changing stuff up a bit every night,” he said.

“Sometimes it really works, and sometimes it doesn’t,” Mindelle said.

“No, it does,” Rousouli said. “It all the time lands.”

Unlike a Broadway musical like “Wicked,” during which the script doesn’t change after the show opens, Rousouli said, they tweak the show weekly — sometimes each day — to remain current on popular culture moments and TikTok trends. On a recent night, a joke featuring a Patti LuPone cardboard cutout drew loud laughs (“You’ll be able to’t even be here, this can be a union gig!”), and a line originally uttered by Jennifer Coolidge’s character within the Season 2 finale of the HBO satire “The White Lotus” (“These gays, they’re attempting to murder me.”), now spoken by Russell Daniels performing in drag as Rose’s mother, received a mid-show standing ovation.

“People feel like they’re a part of something special every night,” Rousouli said.

One aspect of the show’s popularity that has been rewarding, if unintentional, Mindelle said, is how L.G.B.T.Q. audiences have embraced it. “I never thought that we were writing something inherently so queer,” said Mindelle, who like Rousouli, Blue and Connell identifies as queer. “It’s just intrinsic in our DNA and our humorousness.”

Bloomquist, who’s gay, said the show resonated along with his personal experience. “The whole lot that’s coming out of the show’s mouth, you’re like ‘Oh my God, that is just how I speak with my friends,’” he said.

The musical, which announced its fourth extension last week and continues to sell out a majority of its performances, is about to shut May 14, but Mindelle said an excellent longer run could also be within the cards.

“I feel the show has the potential to be very like the song,” she said. “We hope it’ll go on and on and on.”

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