Titanique’s Heart Will Go On, Say The Spoof’s Brilliant Stars

One of the most vibrant musical parodies to hit the off-Broadway stage, Titanique is entertaining fans of Celine Dion and Titanic alike at Asylum NYC. The cast members are all hilarious farceurs with practically super-human voices.

Titanique is a wildly clever spoof of the movie Titanic, deftly working the hit songs of Celine Dion into the plot. Get Out was able to interview the cast/creators, including writers Marla Mindelle, who plays Celine, and Constantine Rousouli who portrays Jack…


How did you prepare for your role as Celine Dion?
At first, I didn’t! Lol! Not because I was lazy, but because I was scared sh*tless to embody my literal childhood idol. I purposely didn’t watch her, because I’m a neurotic psychopath who operates solely out of fear, hehehe. However, as the show began getting more serious and I realized this could be my Fanny Brice moment, I went into a Céline K-hole and watched every interview and performance on YouTube to nail her Céline-isms. I realized that if I operated out of a place of love and admiration, I could find a way to marry my own interpretation of her—a beautiful, quirky ingenue descended from her own French Canadian planet. 

How did you prepare for your role as Celine Dion?
At first, I didn’t! Lol! Not because I was lazy, but because I was scared sh*tless to embody my literal childhood idol. I purposely didn’t watch her, because I’m a neurotic psychopath who operates solely out of fear, hehehe. However, as the show began getting more serious and I realized this could be my Fanny Brice moment, I went into a Céline K-hole and watched every interview and performance on YouTube to nail her Céline-isms. I realized that if I operated out of a place of love and admiration, I could find a way to marry my own interpretation of her—a beautiful, quirky ingenue descended from her own French Canadian planet. 

As co-author of the musical, did you have in mind the role of Celine Dion right from the start?
Absolutely not. See neurotic psychopath statement above. When this idea came around, I was in a bar with my BFF and co-author, Constantine Rousouli, who quite literally told me I would be playing Céline. I remember thinking that this idea would never, ever happen and I would rather die than play Céline, because how on earth could I embody the greatest singer in the world? And five years later, here I am–not dead. Yet. 

You all look like you have so much fun doing this. Can you think of some behind-the-scenes fun that the public doesn’t know about?
We truly have the time of our lives on stage and off. Before the show, we have a sound check every single day and our fabulous band plays us a Patti LuPone-inspired dance break (It’s a lot to explain, lol) and we rock out. Our theater is also in the basement of a Gristedes, so there’s nothing like belting your face off while garbage juice starts leaking on stage. Ah, theater! 

Do you have a favorite scene?
There is a whole scene in the show that I completely improv, and Rose and Jack have to mouth what I’m saying. It’s different every single night and no one knows what to expect, not even myself. My goal is to troll the hell out of the actors who play Jack and Rose, Constantine and Alex, whether that be making them do pushups or telling embarrassing stories about them. Sometimes I even troll myself and talk about how I used to wear Yin Yang necklaces from Claire’s and thought I was the hottest person on earth. 

What inspired the musical in the first place?
Constantine Rousouli (co-author, Jack), Tye Blue (director) and I were essentially unemployed actors/creators in Los Angeles that wound up at this little dinner theater doing movies-to-musical parodies. We had done shows like The Devil Wears Prada, Troop Beverly Hills, and Scream, and would integrate the movie script with pop music. Constantine came up to me one night and said, “The next musical we should do is Titanic, with all Céline Dion songs.” I thought he was absolutely crazy, but when we looked at her songs, we realized they all fit perfectly inside the narrative of the movie. We started writing Titanique simply to make each other laugh and give us something to do. It is so surreal that five years later, we have a commercial run with Broadway producers. I feel like Lin-Manuel Miranda, but poor. 

Any word from Celine as to the musical and her feelings towards it?
We have heard from a few people in her camp, but have not heard from the diva, the icon, the legend Céline herself. I hope she would love Titanique if she saw it, because it is a true celebration of her extreme fabulosity and extraordinary songs. The coolest thing about the show is that we are all die-hard Céline fans, so we hope she can feel our love, near…far…wherever she is. 


Did you love Billy Zane in the original movie, and did you study his part when preparing to do the musical?
I remember back in the 90’s thinking, “This needs to be a musical” and I cast myself as Cal. Now, however many years later, here we are. And yes, I had a crush on Billy Zane. Leo was everyone’s crush at the time, but I gravitate towards the bad boys…

What was your biggest challenge in getting comfortable with Cal?
I’ve made a career playing narcissistic men (*calls therapist), so this wasn’t a stretch. Our version of Cal also dabbles in Pinterest wedding boards and RuPaul’s Drag Race. I digress…The real challenge is Nicholas Connell’s brilliant arrangements that have Cal singing in Stefani Germanotta’s key. (Lady Gaga would make a great Cal, I should add.) 

Thus far what is the funniest thing that’s happened on stage while doing the musical?
This cast is a group of (genius) fools. The show plays like a well rehearsed Saturday Night Live sketch, so there are many nights when I have to stop myself from laughing AT my fellow actors onstage. In the show Molly (Kathy Deitch) says “So, Victor Garber, you called this ship Titanic. You got a small pee-pee or something?” The other night, she said “big” instead of “small”.  I had no chance at keeping a straight face.


How did you prepare to become Rose?
Besides being the incredibly hormonal eighth grader that I was and seeing the original movie in theaters at least four times, all the while crying myself to sleep, wishing Jack was really MY man, I was able to bring a lot of my own quirks to the role of Rose. This show is such a showcase for each character that I wanted to bring as much of my personality to the role as possible, while also trying to keep Rose grounded, earnest and real within this world of chaotic fun. I love slapstick comedy, clown work (I spent a summer in Montreal in clown school at Cirque Du Soleil) and being goofy. I’m lucky this role serves all of those elements. Plus, Marla Mindelle said I’m the most consistent singer she’s ever heard, so I got that going for me as well. He he he! 

Did you have a favorite scene in the original movie?
I love the scene where Jack does a slow turnaround to the camera in the tuxedo he borrowed from Molly Brown to meet Rose at the infamous clock. I mean my little tween heart would SWELL with emotions!!!! His perfect surfer hair, stunning grin and the ambience of going to a fancy dinner while crushing so hard on one another. GAH!! The elegance of it ALL! Sign me up! Except for the whole iceberg/ship sinking stuff. Hard pass on that. 

What were some of the triumphs and challenges you’ve faced doing the musical?
Our mighty little ship of dreams just keeps growing and growing. Everyone that comes to see it loses their minds over it!  I was there at ground zero when the thought was birthed to give this musical a real try. It’s been a slow drip over the past five years. Lots and lots of work, waiting and patience. Lots of envisioning and staying the course to get the show where it is today. Lots of not knowing, but trusting the process. Suffice it to say, it has been INCREDIBLE to watch this idea fully manifest into one of the hottest tickets in town this summer. Proud is an understatement. This show was made with a lot of love, and you can see that for yourself every night on stage. I can’t wait to see what happens next. 


You portrayed the perfect iceberg…How did you prepare for that role?
First, Thank you so much! In the show, Celine Dion says, “She’s the iceberg! Personified!” I decided to take that line literally and think about the aspects of an iceberg that I can use to make my iceberg entertaining. An iceberg is cold in temperature, so my iceberg has a cold and sassy demeanor. The iceberg that sank the Titanic was large in size, so every night I make sure I take up as much space as possible and demand attention and respect. I also watched several videos of people I admire, like Tina Turner and Ru Paul. Tina Turner has a freedom and edginess to her that I love. Ru Paul has a stoic nature that captures a room. Combining these two gave me the balance of being grounded and fearless. 

Did you have any unique challenges?
My journey with the role is why I’m so proud of myself today. I worked hard every day to overcome challenges like learning how to perform in heels, self-doubt, and performance stamina. I’m 24 and making my off-Broadway debut, so there was a learning curve for sure. Luckily, I have an amazing supportive cast who was always there to lift me up. Now I’m slaying the house down every night! 

How much fun is it being an iceberg?
This is the most fun I’ve ever had doing a show. Being the iceberg is freeing because there are truly no expectations and no limits. Whatever you want to do, you can do. There are no rules! Chaos and mayhem are encouraged, so I make sure I give exactly that. 


You are the perfect Molly Brown. How did you prepare for the role?
That is so kind! I do not and cannot strive for perfection, because my idol, Ms. Bates, already did that. I basically studied all of her footage from the movie to embody her as much as possible and threw in some Carol Burnett for good measure. I touch base with the Titanic scenes when I feel like I’m too far adrift. As for the songs, I listened to “Tell Him” so much that my neighbors posted a note on my front door. I’m kidding, but seriously, I want to pay homage to the great Barbra Streisand, and the queens in the house will let me know if I let them down.

What are some of your favorite Molly Brown scenes or lines?
My favorite thing about our show’s take on Molly is that there is not one fat joke. That is only because when I approached our director and co-author Tye Blue about keeping them out, he met me with a warm “Absolutely!” and we proceeded to work together on what could be funny. I love her know-it all-ness (which I maaay understand a little bit about) and how she’s got eyes everywhere; she nosy! The scene before “Tell Him” is my favorite because there’s so much heart in it and also, I get to do it sitting down.

The musical is getting some fabulous reviews. What is your take on the audiences that have seen it?
Well, we all know what it’s like to not get fabulous reviews, so I know I speak for the entire cast when I say we are grateful. And grateful that audiences love it with abandonment, almost every performance. Every show is a dance; you notice the gay fantasia jokes aren’t landing, but the movie references are killing or maybe the vocal silliness really lands one night and the next, they love the blue stuff. We are on the ride with the people watching it, and that is thrilling. By the way, I got to see the show before I came back after my time off and I screamed and clapped and laughed until everything hurt. I LOVE the show I’m in, and I gotta tell ya, that does not always happen when you’re an actor.


Why do you suppose you were chosen to portray Ruth?
When I got the audition for Ruth, I was told to “Make the part your own” and I noticed in a couple videos of concert versions of the show that actors were taking “liberties”. So, I made the material my own and went in with a character focus and plenty of bits. I also basically wanted to have fun with it and make them laugh. Our director, Tye Blue, said after I was cast that they wanted me because they felt I was not only funny, but also because I “had heart and sincerity”. They also liked the material I had come up with. This means a lot to me. 

Was it difficult to become Ruth?
Honestly, I have shied away from playing many drag roles. However, when I got the audition, I read the material and said to myself, “I think I need to play this part.” Ruth isn’t a terrible person– she’s super adherent to duty and statu–but I also felt that the show needed people with wacky, subversive humor and well, that’s what I love to do! Ruth is my camp version of Diahann Carroll as Lady Macbeth, and something about playing the role really gives me a sense of freedom, and I think it was something my spirit needed to do. It hasn’t been difficult portraying Ruth because some version of her was already inside, waiting to unleash herself. 

What’s the most fun you’ve had doing the musical?
The show in general, is really fun to play. The audience starts laughing and never stops until the end, and it’s exhilarating. Small momexnts that really land with the audience are my favorite thing. It’s also great to watch someone really hit a joke or improv and milk the rolling laughter. We also have a super talented company that loves to play together.


What were some of your biggest challenges in writing the musical and portraying Jack?
The biggest challenge for me was wondering how I was going to pull this off as a writer. This is the first thing I’ve ever written, and trying to not have impostor syndrome was a challenge. As for portraying Jack, I would say the biggest challenge was to mesh both the iconic character that everyone loves with my own interpretation. Finding the balance is always key for me. Give the people what they want, but then also surprise them with something fresh.

What inspired the musical for you?
The inspiration came to me one night drunk at a bar, lol. We had been doing dinner theater in L.A. with the most talented Broadway expats, and as I was looking around at these incredible people, I said, “WE NEED TO WRITE SOMETHING FOR OURSELVES”. I wanted to create something a la Wicked that was so familiar and nostalgic to the public, but also have the opportunity to mess up the story and write an original piece.

How close is your actual character to the Jack you portray in the musical?
My character of Jack is somewhat similar to Jack in the film. I mean we have the same ‘90s blonde boy band highlights, but I’ve made him more of an earnest, naive, sort of wide eyed bushy tailed boy. I really poke fun at the typical leading man who’s kind of gullible.

How does this compare to other roles that you’ve had?Nothing compares to this role. It is so fulfilling to create and write something specifically tailored for yourself. I’ve added in all of my strengths and different versions of myself. Never have I ever been able to show all of this before in one character.

What was the most fun part of creating the musical?
The most fun part creating this wonderful, wacky, hilarious show was being able to do it with my best friends. I’m so grateful and lucky to work with such amazing people. You rarely get the opportunity, and to me that is the most fun. 


Hello, Frankie. So let’s talk about your new off-Broadway show, Titanique. I know it’s a spoof, so what role do you play?
It is a parody of the film Titanic. I play Victor Garber, who in our version is basically the captain, the owner and the builder all in one role, lovingly called Victor Garber, which is just hysterical. I also get to play Luigi from Mario Karts, which is our version of Fabrizio from the opening–Leo DeCaprio’s best friend.

So how did you get involved with this?
I’ve been really good friends with Constantine Rousouli, who wrote the show with Marla Mindelle [and Tye Blue], for many years. I was doing Cruel Intentions off-Broadway with Constantine when they were looking to do a reading of the show.  He was like, “Listen, I’ve got this role. It’s a Celine Dion musical, it’s Titanic, you get to play the captain, you get to crash the ship into an iceberg while singing ‘I Drove All Night’. Are you in?” I was like, “Absolutely.” It is just so much fun. I get to smile and laugh with my friends all day long. And it is just a joy. The cast is phenomenal. Constantine and Marla have really written something that I think people are going to love. They’re going to really flock to it. I think we need this kind of theater at this time. I think we need some escapism. I think we need some joy. It is so queer, It is the gayest show I’ve ever been in by far.

Do you get to be a little bit of yourself in it?
I definitely have added a lot of Frankie-isms. People are going to think, ”Oh wow, Frankie was really acting in this.” I play two very strong characters that are not like me. But I do add a lot of my Frankie Grande flare to it, which is great. The way they directed us is kind of like we are retelling the story. So there are elements of us in these characters as well because we are like an echo of the past. You’ll see me, Frankie, out a few times. It is a wild role.

I cannot wait to see it. What is your favorite part?
My number, “I Drove All Night”, is pretty wonderful. I think I like when we transform into our characters when we do our reveal in the beginning. It’s when you are introduced to all of our characters. I really think it’s a very magical moment. I think my favorite part is when Celine does anything. When you see Marla as Celine Dion, you’re going to lose your mind. She is so talented and so funny. Her impersonation is so wonderful. I honestly think Celine would love this show.

Catch Frankie Grande at the Asylum Theater (307 W. 26th Street) for a run in Titanique. It’s a hilarious romp of a musical using Celine Dion songs to tell the Titanic story, but in a very queer and satirical way that no iceberg can interupt!  

Tickets available now Asylumtheatre.com

Eileen Shapiro

Best selling author of "The Star Trek Medical Reference Manual", and feature celebrity correspondent for Get Out Magazine, Louder Than War, and Huffington Post contributor, I've interviewed artists from Adam Ant, Cyndi Lauper, and Annie Lennox to Jennifer Hudson, Rick Springfield, LeAnn Rimes, and thousands in between. My interviews challenge the threat of imagination....

Related post