Sting’s Debut as a Musical Theatre Composer
The 16-time Grammy Award winning musician Sting has written his first musical: The Last Ship. Set in an English seafaring town called Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, the musical is based off some of Sting’s own childhood experiences. The protagonist is a young man named Gideon Fletcher, who grew up in this shipping town but dreams of a different life for himself. Though he is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps, he decides to leave home and take a trip around the world. 14 years later, he returns home to discover that the industry is in dire straits, and meanwhile that his childhood sweetheart has found another man to be her fiancé. Gideon, along with the men of the town, endeavors to build one last ship, proving to themselves and to the world that they have power within them.
The Show’s Pre-Broadway Life
The first recorded instance of the show being performed was an early try-out in Newcastle, England at the Live Theatre. More recently, the show was given a pre-Broadway run at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre from June 10, 2014 until July 13, 2014. Previews have now begun at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre, with the first performance having taken place on September 29, 2014. Opening night is scheduled for October 26, 2014. Reviews in Chicago were less than ecstatic. The book was written by John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then), but despite the pedigree of these writers, many found the libretto to be implausible, and the story to be dreary. Fans have come to expect that a musical will be somewhat upbeat, and perhaps the story of this struggling English shipping town is not America’s cup of tea.
Cast and Creative Team
In addition to the book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, and the music and lyrics by Sting, the show is directed by Joe Mantello (Casa Valentina, Other Desert Cities, Glengarry Glen Ross) and choreographed by Steven Hoggett (Once, Rocky, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time). Though this is Sting’s first musical, he has previously ventured out of traditional songwriting territory when co-writing the score for the 2000 Disney animated film The Emperor’s New Groove. Furthermore, Sting released a musical album in 2013 entitled The Last Ship, which features music from the musical, or originally intended for it. He had not released an album prior to that since 2003 with Sacred Love, and credits the show for motivating him to craft a new slew of songs. The cast features Broadway favorites including Michael Esper (The Lyons, American Idiot) and Aaron Lazar (A Little Night Music, The Light in the Piazza), as well as West End star Rachel Tucker making her Broadway debut. Further cast members include Jimmy Nail, Fred Applegate, Sally Ann Triplett, and Collin Kelly-Sordelet.