Co-writer/director/producer Tye Blue shares his passion for Titanique: In Concert, a musical parody of the hit film Titanic featuring the songs of Celine Dion.
The quick-witted cast features Broadway favorites Marla Mindelle (Sister Act, Cinderella, South Pacific) as Celine, Constantine Rousouli (Cruel Intentions, Wicked, Hairspray) as Jack Dawson and Alex Ellis (Thoroughly Modern Millie, Legally Blonde) as Rose DeWitt Bukater.
Additionally, the cast includes Emmy nominee Stephen Guarino (Showtime’s “I’m Dying Up Here”, ABC’s “Happy Endings”), Frankie Grande (Rock of Ages, “Big Brother”), Sebastian La Cause (“Hustling” webseries, The Rocky Horror Show), Kathy Deitch (Magic Mike XXL, “American Horror Story”, Wicked), Adam Zelasko (Jersey Boys, Thoroughly Modern Millie), Mykal Kilgore (Sounds For A New World, Motown, Hair), Mikhail Thompson and Leah Hall.
Manhattan Digest caught up with co-writer/director/producer Tye Blue on a break from wrapping up final casting selections for Project Runway to discuss Titanique: In Concert.
MD: Titánique or Titaníque? How would you say it?
TB: I pronounce it Titaníque. Just like how Celine would say it.
MD: Sure, banging her fist off her chest.
TB: Exactly, with lots of emphasis and a crazy eye. My mom, though, she pronounces it Titanic-Q. She was like, “OMG, ya’ll have to see Tye’s show Titanic-Q, it’s so great!” I was just mortified.
MD: That’s awesome. That’s parents for you. Congratulations on a successful run of Titanique at the Dynasty Typewriter in LA! How does it feel to be doing the show at Green Room 42?
TB: Thank you first of all, and I don’t know, I don’t know!
MD: Haven’t seen the space yet?
TB: I’ve seen a layout, watched videos and had people walk the space and take videos, so I have an idea of what I’m getting into. I know that the room has built and continues to build a really incredible reputation; some of the people that are on that stage every night are incredible names. So I’m thrilled! This kind of cabaret / immersive narrative theater / concert piece is really my wheelhouse; I’ve done seven or eight of them here in L.A., and they’ve all been building blocks toward Titanique.
This experience will not only build a relationship with the venue and potentially bring them more semi-staged narrative pieces, but also show what this brand of comedy concert theater is.
Titanique is essentially a Celine concert where she “marionettes” skits and rewrites the show, so by nature it’s a hybrid piece, but all within the confines, conceptually, of a Celine concert.
MD: Who do you think will ultimately appreciate this show more, Los Angelans or New Yorkers? Did you have an ultimate destination in mind when you were developing it?
TB: I’ve been planted in L.A. for the past five years doing these musical parodies of films, so I know that there’s a voracious audience for it here.
MD: I see. So you’ve almost got a cottage industry going on there.
TB: A little bit, yeah. It’s not something with tons of dramaturgical integrity and, you know, it’s comedy and it’s highly improvisational at times…the script is woven out of months of improvisational table work, so, I don’t know if the tone is going to fly in New York, but I know that ultimately it’s a love letter to the film and it’s definitely a love letter to Celine and her catalog, so if people like those two then they’re going to love it.
MD: I watched the trailer, it’s really quite funny. I think the title and what you’re presenting makes it very clear, and I think people will embrace it, honestly. Has the production gotten any attention from Celine Dion herself? Is that something you’re looking to get?
TB: When it’s ready I want to show it to her. My fantasy is we do these one-offs in L.A., we do this run in New York, we get some serious momentum, and then drive everyone from L.A. to Las Vegas and show her the show, bare bones, in a rehearsal studio…I can literally see it happening in my mind, I’ve actually had dreams about standing in a rehearsal studio, looking right in front of Celine and just being like, “This is for you. We wrote this for you. We love you. We would love to have you attached in any way, shape or form. Please enjoy. Ladies and gentlemen: Titanique.”
It’s our dream to be aligned with her on this. I knew she was funny, and I knew that she had a great sense of humor about herself, and when that music video dropped for “Ashes” from Dead Pool 2, that for me was a sign that she is going to love this show and she’s going to want to be a part of it.
MD: That shows the most class, too, to laugh with…she’s got class, no question.
TB: So much, so much.
MD: I’ve read Marla Mindelle described as a ‘Celine Dion impressionist’. Would you ever imagine the Celine part being played by a female impressionist? Provided they could sing it…
TB: Oh yeah, if they could sing it, absolutely. I am entrenched in the drag community. I am on the casting team for RuPaul’s Drag Race, I’ve booked drag queens and drag shows for many years, so the more drag the better in Tye Blue’s world. There is a lot of drag in the show already. Rose’s mother is played by Stephen Guarino.
MD: So you’re already setting the stage for that, really.
TB: Oh yeah, oh yeah, and listen, our real fantasy is, and I think that Marla would agree with this, is that Celine hears about the show, and says she wants to do it. Smoke them apples! Marla would step aside to let Celine have a moment in the show and then it would live on forever.
MD: Sure. So you think you’re going to spin off Titanique tours with this cast, or others?
TB: That would be wonderful. Our goal is to do a full commercial run. We definitely have venues that want to do it.
MD: And it’s certainly economical to produce, voices and some staging, can do it everywhere…it seems like it’s very portable and very sustainable.
TB: Yeah, intentionally low budget because we’re never going to recreate the ship, that’s impossible. So we’re just going in the opposite direction. I envision it as being something with really stunning lights, and I envision Celine’s character changing costumes every single fucking song. Everyone else can just be in rags, for all I’m concerned. It’s all about Celine.
MD: You can get some breakaway dresses…what was it like developing the piece with Marla Mindelle and Constantine Rousouli, and then actually directing them both in it?
TB: Ooh, girl.
MD: Too many cooks in the kitchen?
TB: Listen, I learned a long time ago that most people think that directors need to be in charge and need to tell people what to do, but the truth is the director needs to keep everyone happy; if everyone is happy, then they’ll do what the director wants. So that’s my approach. I’m very open, I’m very collaborative, and the three of us, there’s never been a major disagreement on structure, song choice, or narrative; we’ve done several shows together prior to this so we have a bit of a rapport. The dynamic does shift and it can be challenging but we all respect each other a great deal and we give each other space to…flex.
MD: Of the different roles that you’re taking on for Titanique – writing, producing, directing – which are you enjoying the most, or can you even say?
TB: My roles have really been mostly writing/producing so far, although I’m really looking forward to actually having a week in New York, in the space, to to really start seeing what it is on its feet. I’ve produced a ton of events, nightlife, dinner theater…I work in TV as a casting producer, so handling details and advancing logistics and and massaging relationships is probably my forte.
Honestly, the most special aspect of this experience was telling myself “OK, sir, you’re a writer, sit down and write this thing.” Giving myself the time and the deadline of writing and producing the script, that’s been the most rewarding aspect.
MD: You’ve acted in some indie films and series. Are you looking to continue performing at all, or do you want to stay in directing/writing/producing?
TB: Yeah, I performed a lot when I was younger, and and I sing every now and then, because I just love to sing. But I really like using my brain and my experience with talent and production. I decided this many years ago; it came to me on a Tuesday night while I was hosting a drag show in Houston, TX…it was really rewarding to be the vehicle for the talent, to show everyone off and to brag on them on the microphone…in that moment, I realized I didn’t need the spotlight at all to feel happy or to feel validated. I take more joy in creating a space for creative people and lifting them up. If I can continue to create shows, TV, Broadway, concerts…be someone who has a fantastic eye for talent…if all that is to be my legacy, I’m good.
MD: That has a lot of magnitude to that; it’s much bigger than you and it’s very powerful. I did find a video of you singing with Rumer Willis, you have a really lovely voice.
TB: Awww, thank you, thank you. I love to sing, and I think that it’s something that is so precious that I only really want to do it when asked…it’s so tender for me…I’d rather just sing at a jazz club every now and then just because I want to.
MD: Sure. yeah, that’s really nice. What’s it like working with Rumer Willis?
TB: We met doing the “For The Record” concert series, here in L.A.. We were both hired in the same week, and we didn’t know anyone. I was production manager and she was the name in the show, and we just bonded in that weird, nebulous climate. That show turned into show after show after show, and then I started helping her focus in her career; we developed a trust and started producing things together. I created her show at Cafe Carlyle, and then I turned that into national tour. So we’re family, we will we will always be family, kindred spirits for sure.
MD: You must love working with her. Who are some other favorite artists that you’d love to work with?
TB: Wow, wow wow wow, well I’ll say this – do you know who Ledisi is? She is she is one of the most incredible vocalists on the planet, and she’s my favorite singer. She just completed the workshop of Tituss Burgess’ “The Preacher’s Wife” and I want to work with her. I idolize her, I think she’s such a huge deal and a bit underrated. If “The Preacher’s Wife” happens, I would be a PA on that thing just to be in that space with her.
MD: If Rumer Willis’ success is any indication, you could really make Ledisi’s music blossom.
MD: So what are you working on after Titanique, or will you be working on this show for the months to follow?
TB: We have a few offers to do runs of Titanique in L.A. that I’m in the midst of, and there are a couple of other shows and venues that are knocking on my door here. I feel like the fall is going to be about a full production Titanique and where that’s going to be, that’s the next step for me.
MD: So Titanique has a lot of growth left in it, you’re not gonna just turn to another jukebox musical or anything like that.
TB: Ooh. Child, no! Titanique is absolutely my passion project and I wholeheartedly believe that it’s worth all of my free time right now. So until, until it’s really like on its feet, and and and experiences a whole run, I won’t rest.
Getting a commercial run mounted will be a little more tricky because we’re dealing with two of the most popular IPs on the planet, the biggest film of all time and probably the biggest singer of all time, and, well, there’s room for them to say no. Whereas, you know, if I wanted to do a jukebox musical with <INSERT NAME HERE*>’s catalog, it’s like, they’d be begging me to do it…no offense to her, I actually know her brother, and I adore them.
Ultimately, if Green Room 42 loves it and they want us to be in New York for a couple of months, I’m there. I think there’s potential for an ongoing, collaborative relationship there.
Titanique: The Concert plays five performances beginning Aug 25th at Green Room 42, 570 10th Ave @ 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036 (in Yotel). The show has an awesome cast (see teaser), and comes to NYC after two sold-out runs in LA.; Tickets can be purchased here (ticketing questions: [email protected] or 646-449-7792).
*What singer did Tye Blue say? Post your guess in a comment:
- Paula Abdul
- Belinda Carlisle
- Mandy Moore
- Dionne Warwick