A “Titanic” Spoof Show That Draws Fans Near, Far, Wherever They Are


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

And then: The woman they were waiting for arrived.

“It’s me, Celine Dion,” said Marla Mindelle, one of the writers and stars of the “Titanic” musical parody, “Titanic,” tossing aside a black trash bag cape to reveal a shimmering gold dress – a wink at the witch. entrance to “Into the Woods” – and making their way to the stage to a tidal wave of applause.

The sold-out crowd of 270, who sported tight green sequined dresses, black leather jackets and bright pink sunglasses, had gathered for a special performance commemorating the 25th anniversary of the hit 1997 film, on success of Dion’s catalog. Since opening in the 150-seat basement of Asylum NYC in Chelsea in June, thanks to word of mouth and a passionate social media following, the show has always sold out.

“The movie and Celine are always on point,” said Constantine Rousouli, who plays “Titanic’s” romantic male lead, Jack, and created the show with Mindelle and Tye Blue, who also directs.

The show won accolades for its campy tone, improvised moments, and energetic cast, and cultivated an army of “TiStaniques” fans, some of whom have seen the 100-minute show more than a dozen times.

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

Partly improvised and best enjoyed with a drink in hand, “Titanic,” which tells the story of “Titanic” from Dion’s perspective and through his music, began life as one would expect: when of a drunken discussion between Mindelle, 38, (Broadway’s “Sister Act” and “Cinderella by Rodgers & Hammerstein”) and Rousouli (“Wicked”, “Hairspray”), 34, in a Los Angeles bar in 2016.

Rousouli and Mindelle, another “Titanic” fan, had become friends doing dinner parties and pop parody musicals in Los Angeles. And now Rousouli had an idea: what if they did a parody musical “Titanic” – using Dion’s songs – and cast the Canadian singer herself as a character on the show?

“I was like, ‘She’s just gonna tell the show like ‘Joseph,'” he said, referencing Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 1968 musical, “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” . (It was during that same conversation, he said, that the idea of ​​the trash bag entering the first scene came to life.)

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

“I never thought of myself as a writer,” Rousouli said in a heated conversation earlier this month with Mindelle, Blue and Connell in the theater’s basement bar. “People ask me now, ‘How was the process?’ And it was like I closed my eyes, and all of a sudden there was a draft and I had written this whole musical. They wrote the initial book in a month and a half, he said.

They began doing pop-up concerts of the current show at small venues around Los Angeles in 2017, then in New York the following year. Early performances were stripped-down affairs, with no sets or costumes and, according to Mindelle, a “really bad” De Dion accent in early readings. But audiences loved them – and many came back for a second or third time.

After a pandemic delay, they opened the first fully staged production of “Titanic” at the asylum in June. The first month was a bit scary, Blue said, with entire rows empty. But by July, thanks to social media buzz, they were selling out shows. It helped that Frankie Grande, who recently had her final performance as Jack Luigi’s pal and Canadian actor Victor Garber’s pal, has a famous half-sister, Ariana, who shouted at the show after attending.

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

Soon celebrities came to see him, including Garber, who played shipbuilder Thomas Andrews in the film, and Lloyd Webber.

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

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 additional seats.

“I was afraid we were going to lose that sense of intimacy and charm,” Mindelle said. “But now we run in the public all the time; I can still make eye contact with people, I can still touch every person.

Part of the appeal, said Ty Hanes, 29, a musical theater actor who has gone 13 times, is that no two performances are the same. He can’t wait to see what Mindelle does in the five-minute scene between Rose and Jack that she improvises every night (some of her favorites: a bit about falling off a toenail and a riff on Spam, canned pork product).

“You can tell they have fun changing things up a bit every night,” he said.

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

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

Unlike a Broadway musical like “Wicked,” in which the script doesn’t change after the show opens, Rousouli said, they change the show weekly — sometimes daily — to stay on top of the moments of the show. pop culture and TikTok trends. A recent night, a joke featuring a cardboard cutout of Patti LuPone elicited great laughs (“You can’t even be here, it’s a union gig!”), and a retort uttered at the originated by Jennifer Coolidge’s character in the Season 2 finale of HBO’s satire “The White Lotus” (“These gays, they’re trying to murder me”), now spoken by Russell Daniels playing the role of Rose, received a standing ovation halfway through.

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

One aspect of the show’s popularity that has been gratifying, even if it wasn’t intentional, Mindelle said, is how the LGBTQ audience has embraced it. “I never thought we’d write something that inherently weird,” said Mindelle, who, like Rousouli, Blue and Connell, identifies as weird. “It’s just intrinsic to our DNA and our sense of humor.”

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

The musical, which announced its fourth expansion last week and continues to sell out the majority of its performances, is set to end on May 14, but Mindelle said an even longer run could be on the cards.

“I think the show has the potential to be a lot like the song,” she said. “We hope it will continue again and again.”


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