“The Last Ship” Opens on Broadway

Sting’s First Broadway Effort

the last shipOn October 26, 2014, The Last Ship opened at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theatre. It had been running in previews since September 29, 2014. With music and lyrics by 16-time Grammy Award winner Sting, the musical has a book by John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal, If/Then). Furthermore, the show is directed by Joe Mantello (Casa Valentina, Other Desert Cities) and choreographed by Steven Hoggett (Once, Rocky). The show tells the story of the citizens of an English seafaring town whose shipping business is on its last legs. The protagonist, a man named Gideon Fletcher, left home as a young man to seek greater adventures, but returns to find that his father’s business is failing and his one true love has pledged herself to another. The denizens come together in a grand collaborative effort to build one last ship, representing the dream that they have shared and their passion to keep it alive despite the hardships they are facing. Sting crafted this musical following his own experience growing up in Newcastle, and it shares a name with his eleventh album, The Last Ship, which came out in September 2013. This is the first time Sting has written a show for the stage.

The Reviews Are In

The reviews are in, and critics are mixed in their appreciation of the show. Charles Isherwood of The New York Times deemed it the last shipambitious and earnest, but couldn’t help but criticize it for being unfocused. There are two conflicting storylines – the romantic subplot and the main story of the seafaring town’s struggle – and they never come together in a coherent or satisfying way. He lauded the score for being one of the best composed by a Broadway outsider (that is, a singer-songwriter or otherwise established musician trying his or her hand on Broadway), which is a kind of underwhelming compliment. And though he appreciated the performances of the talented actors, he acknowledged the show is disadvantaged by its somber themes in comparison to the peppier shows competing for ticketbuyers’ attention. David Cote of Time Out New York, on the other hand, was more positive in his review. He called the show fervent and glorious, and yet he still admitted the book was lacking in comparison to the score. Mark Kennedy of the Associated Press appreciated the testosterone level of the show, and was enervated by the score and the story both. David Rooney of the Hollywood Reporter praised the show for returning to the concept of the original Broadway musical, with true soul in its roots, although he was still on the fence about the show’s overall success.

Struggling at the Box Office

Though more than a week has passed since these reviews came out, theatregoers do not seem to be encouraged to purchase tickets due to their increased awareness of the show’s existence. In the week ending November 2, 2014, the show grossed $495,069, which was actually a decrease of $51,845 from the week before and the show’s lowest weekly gross to date. This represents only 39.82% of the show’s gross potential, with an average paid ticket price of $78.17. Perhaps the show needs to discount more, but that will only take it so far. With mixed reviews, less than upbeat themes, and a highly competitive Broadway season full of Hollywood stars and compelling musical brands, The Last Ship may have a hard time staying afloat for very much longer.

“The Last Ship” Begins Previews on Broadway

Sting’s Debut as a Musical Theatre Composer

the last shipThe 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

sting

Sting

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.

Magic Mike Broadway Musical in the Works

Magic Mike

Magic Mike

The Next to Normal team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (who also wrote the new Broadway-bound musical If/Then) will team up with Spider-man: Turn Off the Dark scribe Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa to adapt the recent film Magic Mike into a Broadway musical.

Magic Mike director Steven Soderbergh and star Channing Tatum will serve as producers on the musical. The popular 2012 movie, which co-starred Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Alex Pettyfer and Matt Bomer, was inspired by Tatum’s experience as a male stripper.

Another of the show’s producers, Reid Carolin, previously spoke to USA Today about the Magic Mike musical, saying, “We are working on it as a Broadway show, which would be a different story, more of a romp, more of a fun night out at a club with a story. I’m almost more excited about that than the movie because I think it’s the perfect thing for women to go see on Broadway, to be participants in the show.”