My 13th Time At TITANIQUE | OPINION
I saw Titanique for the 13th time last week.
It was probably around the 6th time I realized I had a problem. I assure you spending almost 22 hours of my life at ONE show in less than ONE year is abnormal, even for me. I had spent all four of my Sunday evenings in March on the ship of dreams, and a friend joked that Titanique was my gay church. They weren’t wrong. I even brought a different friend each time, hoping to spread the gospel of Celine.
As I entered the Daryl Roth Theater for lucky 13, I felt like Rose climbing those big ol’ stairs at the end of the movie. It’s all coming back to me now - the smiling front of house staff, the excellent pre-show music, the buzzy gay audience talking about the latest diva news. Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be” sweeps over the crowd as the sparkling, giant, tacky heart of the ocean twirls above us sailors. Co-creators and deities Marla Mindelle and Constantine Rousouli take their seats. Tonight is a night for religious devotees like me only – Titanique’s first “TiSTANique” performance.
The story goes that friends Marla Mindelle and Constantine Rousouli moved to LA after being burnt out from over years performing in NYC. In Los Angeles, Mindelle and Rousouli wrote and performed parody musicals like The Devil Wears Prada and Cruel Intentions to dinner theater crowds (fish with red sauce included). One drunken night out in 2017, Rousouli pitched a Titanic musical with Dion’s songs starring Mindelle and himself as Celine (too old to play Rose, they joke) and Jack respectively. They joined forces with director and co-writer Tye Blue and Titanique was born. After an LA run and NYC workshops, the show landed Off-Broadway at The Asylum Theater and soon transferred to the much larger Daryl Roth Theater in November 2022.
For those poor unfortunate trolls unfamiliar with Titanique, it’s a Celine Dion jukebox musical telling the story of Titanic the movie. If that’s not compelling enough for you to buy a ticket, I get it. Not being too familiar with Celine’s discography and never having any attachment to the movie myself, I resisted the urge to visit. It wasn’t until seemingly every gay person in New York City, including Las Culturistas’ Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang, endorsed the show and I came to my senses and got a ticket. Yes, it is a parody musical with Celine Dion songs, but it exceeds, transcends, and gags to an inexplicably high level above any expectations.
There is a magical quality to Titanique. It casts a unique spell that separates it from the numerous, dull parody/jukebox musicals in New York. Its wizardry lies in its earnest portrayal of overstuffed gay stupidity. It’s exactly what I (and many BFA-adjacent tragic heroes like me) want to see onstage: a glittery, hilarious, pop-culture obsessed, queer-forward, somewhat improvised, and always joyful musical with the most incredible vocals in New York City. Seriously. These people are singing out of the TOP of their head with placement that will make you throw your hands in the air. Titanique knows exactly what references will tickle its audiences’ brains and goes for it. Sure, not every element will land for everyone, but I promise that you will find something that makes your pretty little jaw drop.
For my damaged little mind, it’s a small moment when Celine, in a thick, so-bad-it's-good Canadian accent, says, “Do you know who was first in line for dinner? ME. I love dinnertime, It is my favorite time.” The show moves on as if that is not the strangest thing a woman has ever said on a stage. It’s awesome. For you, it could be when “Iceberg Bitch” Tina Turner shows up. Or when Kathy Bates/Unsinkable Molly Brown “belts her tits off” during “All By Myself.” The full-throttle cacophony and absurdity never lets up. My face (which can be seen in a trailer for the show) hurts from smiling every time.
The fact that I keep coming back is a testament to its lasting power. When Rousouli, Mindelle, and other original company members decided to depart the show earlier this year, I had genuine concern if new actors could keep the momentum going. Marla Mindelle’s once-in-a-lifetime performance as Celine was especially earth-shattering and seemed impossible to recreate. Jackie Burns (the current Celine), Nicole Parker, and every Celine understudy have risen to the heights Mindelle and blown the roof off the theater. In fact, every cast configuration I have seen is perfect. I hope Burns, most known for being Broadway’s longest-running Elphaba, stays with the show for a long time. I could watch her unhinged, tongue-forward impersonation of Celine every night of my life.
Lucky for me, the show isn’t sailing away any time soon. After winning major Off-Broadway awards and earning multiple extensions, the show was just extended until June 2024. That’s good news to TitSTANiques like me, of course. It’s better news for the NYC theatre scene, which desperately needs more kooky-crazy works like Titanique. If you think 13 trips a lot, I know people who have easily broken 25. Seeing this community gather last week was really impactful. The TitSTANique performance was a beautiful hand reach to devotees assuring us the magic we feel is real!
I must share that the night ended in the most fitting way. After a Titanic-themed trivia game, two superfans lip-synced for their lives to “I Drove All Night.” The lip-sync turned spontaneous striptease was cut short by judges Mindelle and Rousouli. Mindelle shared that, “If we kept that going, they were going to have sex onstage!” I couldn’t think of a kookier, crazier, way to end Titanique’s first superfan performance. Hope to see you at the next one.
For tickets and more information, visit here.