The Last Ship Sails
Yesterday, I saw a preview performance of the musical The Last Ship, which has a Tony-nominated score written by Sting. The show officially begins in U.S. Tour on Wednesday. but I figured a preview would be fine since the production ran in Toronto before coming here to Los Angeles. What's most notable about this version of the show is that the cast includes Sting himself.
(It's not the main lead starring role, though that's largely because the show is an ensemble piece, following a few stories. I wouldn't be surprised if when it played on Broadway that perhaps the storyline about the young man who returns to town following his father's funeral after 17 years away, running off to the Navy as teen, and crossing paths with his former girlfriend who owns the town pub, might possibly have been the focal story. But with Sting now in the cast, his role as the shpyard foreman and union rep is clearly in the forefront and the starring focus.)
The show didn't have a long run on Broadway, having 105 performances, though ticket sales went up the last month when Sting joined the cast there for the final few weeks.
The Last Ship is loosely inspired by Sting's youth growing up in the shipbuilding town of Wallsend. It isn't a great musical, but going in with only moderate expectations at best, I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. The plot isn't strong, and is more of a "tone poem" that looks at how the closing of a centuries-old shipbuilding yard affect the town and people. The first act rambles a bit -- intentionally, I sense -- but the second act is more focused and actually builds to a moving ending. And it’s extremely well-staged, with an inventive use of scrims and superimposed video. Sting's score is at most times moody, sometimes amusing and, if not a traditional musical score, overlaps with that and is effective.
And Sting as a performer is wonderful. I've liked his career, but was never A Fan. But he handles the role terrifically, beyond just the singing. (He's only got about four songs in the show.) In fact, he has two standout scenes where he's great -- one in a near-empty church, and the other near the end between him and the young man, leading to him dealing with the shipbuilders. Not surprisingly, he brings great presence to the show.
I was also taken by Frances McNamee who plays the now-grown up woman who had been left behind by the young man. She played the role during the show's successful tour of the UK and Ireland, and I'm very glad you stayed with the production. She has a wonderful singing voice, vibrant acting and moves like a trained dancer. (I'm not sure how many others in this cast come from that production, she may be the only one, but most of the cast is the U.K.)
After Los Angeles, the U.S. tour is scheduled to play in San Francisco (heads-up Greg Van Buskirk), Washington D.C., (heads-up Nell Minow), Minneapolis and Detroit through April, 2020, and I believe Sting is scheduled to stay with the show, so if you live in any of those cities and are interested, it's worth checking out.
Here are videos of a couple songs from the show.
This first is "When We Dance," featuring two of the performers from the Los Angeles production -- the aforementioned Frances McNamee and Oliver Savile (who plays the young man who's returned to town), accompanied by Sting. I suspect this is from a press performance before the U.S. Tour began.
And this is Sting with the title song, "The Last Ship." It's sung at a three different points in the show, and generally with the full company, though his character tends to have the lead with it the first two times,
And one final song, a big solo number by the terrific Jackie McNamee, "If Ever You See Me Talking to a Sailor." It's not one of my favorite songs, though she gives it a wonderful performance, and especially as it builds to the end with some tour-de-force flourishes. This comes from that same press performance, and it's easy to Sting's appreciation, sitting on a nearby stool throughout.
Leave a Reply.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor