January 28, 2023

Raven Tribune

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The ‘Titanic’ parody show draws fans near, far, wherever they are

On a recent Tuesday night at the Daryl Roth Theater in Union Square, temperatures outside were hovering in the mid-30s, but inside, a few hundred 30-somethings in sailor hats were sipping an “iceberg” cocktail and swaying on Lizzo’s “juice.” A glittering silver and blue tinsel heart hung above the platform like a disco ball.

And then: the woman they had been waiting for arrived.

“It’s me, Celine Dion,” said Marla Mendel, one of the writers and stars of the musical satirical show “Titanic,” as she pushed aside her black garbage bag gown to reveal a shimmering gold gown — a reference to the witch her entry from “Into the Woods” — She made her way onto the stage in a tidal wave of applause.

Dressed in bodycon green sequin dresses, black leather jackets and bright pink glasses, the crowd of 270 gathered for a special screening celebrating the 25th anniversary of the 1997 blockbuster, which was slashed from Dion’s catalog. Since opening at NYC’s 150-seat basement basement theater in Chelsea in June, thanks to strong word of mouth and an enthusiastic social media following, the show has consistently sold out.

“The film and Céline are still very much in the zeitgeist,” said Constantine Rousoli, who plays the romantic male lead, Jacques.

offer to him He won praise Because of its insular tone, impromptu moments, and energetic cast, it has developed an army of fans of “TiStaniques,” some of whom have watched the 100-minute show more than a dozen times.

“It’s filled with so much joy and heart and dumb fun,” said Ryan Bloomquist, 30, who works in Broadway marketing and has watched the show five times.

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

Rusoli and Mendel, two fellow “Titanic” fans, become friends while doing dinner theater and pop musical parodies in Los Angeles. And now, Rossolli had an idea: What if they made a musical parody of “Titanic”—using Dion’s songs—and made the Canadian singer herself a character in the show?

He said he thought, “She’d just narrate the show like ‘Joseph,'” a reference to the 1968 Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Joseph and the Technicolor Pioneer Dreamcoat.” (It was during this same conversation, he said, that the idea of ​​a garbage bag entering the scene came up I to life).

Convinced they were on to something, Mindell and Rosolli worked with Blue, 42, an acquaintance from the Los Angeles dinner theater circuit, to write a screenplay. (Music supervisor Nicholas Connell, 35, did the arrangements and orchestrations.)

“I never considered myself a writer,” Rosoli said in a lively conversation earlier this month with Mindell, Bleu, and Connell in the theater’s basement bar. “Now people ask me, ‘What was the process like?'” And it was like I closed my eyes, and all of a sudden there was a draft and I wrote this whole musical draft.” He said they wrote the first book in a month and a half.

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They started doing pop-up concerts for the running show in small venues around Los Angeles in 2017 Then New York the following year. The first performances were stripped-down affairs, with no set or costumes, and according to Mindell, Dion’s accent was “really bad” at the first readings. But the audience loved them – and many returned for the second or third time.

After a pandemic delay, they opened their first full production of “Titanic” at the asylum in June. Blue said the first month was a little scary, with whole rows left empty. But by July, thanks to a social media buzz, they sold out the shows. It helped Frankie Grande, who had recently made his last performance in the dual role of Jack’s friend Luigi and Canadian actor Victor Garber, have a famous half-sister, Ariana, who The show gave a shout After attending.

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

Soon, celebrities were coming to see her, among them Garber, who played shipbuilder Thomas Andrews in the film, and Lloyd Webber.

“He looked at us and said, ‘You’re crazy,'” Rusoli said, affecting a British accent in imitation of Lloyd Webber. “I said, ‘Cool, thanks, so are we.'”

The production’s offbeat ethos remained when it moved to the larger Daryl Roth Theater in November, where the show now features a richer sound and nearly 100 additional seats.

“I was afraid we were going to lose that sense of intimacy and magic,” Mendel said. “But now we’re running in the audience all the time; I can still make eye contact with people, and I can still touch every single person.”

Part of the attraction is that no two shows are the same, said Ty Hans, 29, a 13-time went-go musical theater actor. He’s looking forward to seeing what Mendel will do with a five-minute scene between Rose and Jack that he improvises every night (some of his favorites: a bit about falling nails and a lunge on Spam, the canned pork product).

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“You could tell they have a blast changing things up a little bit every night,” he said.

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

“No, it is,” said Rosoli. “It always lands.”

Unlike a Broadway musical like “Wicked,” where the script doesn’t change after the show opens, Rosolli said, they adjust the show weekly — sometimes daily — to stay on top of pop culture moments and TikTok trends. One recent night, a joke by A.J Cardboard cut out Patty LuPone laughter (“You can’t even be here, that’s a union party!”), and a line originally uttered by Jennifer Coolidge’s character in the season 2 finale of the HBO spoof “The White Lotus” (“These faggots, they’re trying to kill me.”) , now spoken by Russell Daniels playing Rose’s mother, receives a standing ovation mid-show.

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

One aspect of the show’s popularity that was rewarding, if unintentional, Mendel said, was how embracing the LGBTQ audience was. “I never thought we were writing something so weird,” says Mendel, who like Rossolli, Blue and Connell defines it as weird. “It’s just so intrinsic to our DNA and our sense of humor.”

Bloomquist, who is gay, said the show resonates with his personal experience. “Everything that comes out of the mouth of the show,” he said, “you’re like, ‘Oh my God, that’s the way I talk to my friends.'”

The musical, which announced its fourth extension last week and continues to sell out the majority of its run, is scheduled to end May 14, but Mendel said a longer extension could be on the cards.

“I think the show has the potential to be a lot like the song,” she said. “Hopefully, this will continue to happen again and again.”