I love Titanic. Like the actual Titanic, the film is a product of massive scale, a three-and-a-half-hour long amalgamation of genres, a romance and a disaster film and a historical drama with even a bit of thriller DNA thrown in there for good luck. Director James Cameron went to incredible lengths to create his vision—filming for over five months, almost freezing Kate Winslet to death, and actually visiting the real Titanic wreckage. And it’s an incredible vision! I’m a staunch believer in the “no talking during movies” rule, but if you put Titanic on, you’ll have a hard time getting me to shut up about how much I love particular shots and scenes and bits of visual storytelling. By the time we get to Céline Dion singing “My Heart Will Go On,” you’ll be emotionally exhausted by both the sinking and my pattering on.
Luckily, Titanique is not emotionally draining at all—if anything, you’ll be leaving the theater humming “I’m Alive” under your breath. Titanique is a mix of Titanic, Céline Dion, 2 tablespoons of camp, and a healthy sprinkle of just plain stupid jokes, all chopped up together on high speed. The musical parody—running through November 6 at The Asylum NYC, a comedy club in the basement of a Gristedes that was the former home of the UCB Theatre—imagines a world where Céline Dion was not only on the Titanic but also was intimately involved in the events of Titanic. Dion—played by Marla Mindelle, who co-wrote the show with co-star Constantine Rousouli—recounts, with aplomb, the love story between young Rose DeWitt Bukater (Alex Ellis) and Jack Dawson (Rousouli). Using Dion’s repertoire as the soundtrack, Titanique condenses the story of the Titanic’s voyage down to a clean 90 minutes.
It’s a love letter to Dion and Titanic, sending up both to raucous success. Mindelle as Dion is magnetic, embodying the pop star’s most eccentric qualities and making them her own. Titanique also captures some of Titanic’s most iconic moments—“My Heart Will Go On,” yes, and a Fisher-Price adorned version of the post-portrait car sex scene (the portrait itself recreated with a Sims-esque twist)—but also the smaller things that reveal a close watch of the source material, like a Barbie-sized version of the passenger who hit the propeller with a very audible clonk during the sinking.
You don’t need an encyclopedic knowledge of Titanic or Dion to enjoy the show—Titanique is packed with jokes from across pop culture, with plenty of one-liners for everybody. Not all of the jokes work, but the cast approaches even the worst jokes with an infectious joy that the laughs don’t stop flowing for long. It’s also a damn good musical, too—there isn’t a bad voice in the bunch, and the cast uses the intimate theater to surround the audience with music during the show’s biggest scenes.
I think one of the reasons Titanic endures—besides its melodrama lending itself to delicious camp—is because of Cameron’s uncompromising artistic vision. Titanique is uncompromising in its own, very different way (as far as I know, no one in the cast visited the wreckage). The cast is extremely dedicated to the absurd world that they created. While I would love to see the creators given a million bucks to take the show to Broadway, there’s a certain charm to the rundown basement theater, the cheap props and costumes, and the general scrappiness of the whole thing. They make it all come to life, even if they don’t have Cameron’s ability to go millions of dollars over budget. It’s a dedication that would make Cameron—and the real Céline Dion—proud.