During the 2014 holiday season, I was lucky enough to see Sting‘s musical, The Last Ship, on Broadway at the Neil Simon Theatre. It was made all the better due to the fact that Sting was actually part of the cast, and that Michael Esper, an actor I’ve admired since he was in the musical American Idiot, was starring as the lead character, Gideon Fletcher.The Last Ship began as a semi-autobiographical album that Sting released in 2013 and was then turned into a musical.The musical takes place in a fictionalized version of the town that Sting grew up in, and follows the character Gideon Fletcher as he returns to a town he left fifteen years prior. Things are only made more difficult as Gideon discovers that has a lot changed while he was gone, and some of these changes affect him more than he expects. One of the biggest changes is that the shipyard has closed, which will ruin the town, since that’s all the townspeople have ever really known as a way to make a living. Eventually, though, everyone pulls together to make one last ship, thanks to the generosity of the local priest, Father O’Brien. Without saying anything else (in order to not spoil the storyline of the show), I can honestly say that this is one of the best musicals I’ve seen recently. It’s the epitome of a Broadway show, and yet, the heart of Sting’s songs stays true and adds so much to the show and the performance.
As someone who grew up listening to Sting’s many albums, I was thrilled to discover that the show actually includes a few of his older songs that aren’t from his most recent album. The songs that have been brought back include “All This Time,” “When We Dance,” and “Ghost Story.” These songs also opened up the show a bit more for most viewers, since many people know these songs already, so you’re ready to sing along immediately, even though the songs have changed a little with some new lyrics and modified melodies. The new songs also felt very natural within the show, and were very quickly new favorite songs of mine, especially the titular song “The Last Ship” and “We’ve Got Now’t Else.” Another song that I absolutely adore is “What Say You Meg,” which deals with a major plot line, and is sung by Aaron Lazar absolutely beautifully.
For me, this show was the epitome of a Broadway musical as I’ve grown up with them. The characters are compelling, as is the story. I really enjoyed the various plots interwoven within, one of which is a love triangle between the characters Gideon, Meg, and Arthur. It did not turn out how I expected it to, which I actually found more realistic and believable than the option which I would have liked to have seen. Even better was the cast. As I said above, Michael Esper is one of my favorite current leading men on Broadway. He gives his everything to the roles he plays, and that’s especially true for Gideon. Rachel Tucker is also phenomenal as Meg Dawson. Her voice is absolutely incredible, and the passion she showed as Meg was heartbreaking. Fred Applegate was perfectly cast as Father O’Brien. The Father was one of my favorite characters in the show. I was surprised to like Aaron Lazar’s character, Arthur Millburn, as much as I did, since he is somewhat a villain in the town because he’s turned away from the shipyard faster than other townspeople, and didn’t leave the way that Gideon did. The rest of the cast was also incredible, and their voices blended together beautifully.
Of course, as a Sting fan who was lucky enough to see the man in concert for my birthday last year, I nearly cried when I realized I’d be seeing the singer live in the show. A musical is very different from a concert, though, and I did enjoy seeing Sting in such a different capacity. He’s not the greatest actor, but he committed to his role as Jackie White, the man who runs the shipyard and helps to guide the story of The Last Ship as the play progresses. While Sting wasn’t the best when it came to the choreography, and I quickly noticed that his was a lot simpler than the rest of the cast’s, he pulled off the power Jackie held within the town perfectly. His voice was strong, and it made his acting much more believable as a man who has power in the town in which he lives.
As a whole, I fell in love with this show, and I wish more than anything that I could go and see it again, but in case you don’t believe me… Here’s a taste of some of the songs from The Last Ship, with Sting himself singing them, as well as some information about the production.
If you’re interested in seeing That Last Ship, you have to hurry. The final performance is January 24, 2015. It’s definitely worth it to see it live, especially while Sting is performing in it. The show is utterly fantastic, and reminds us that everyone has a story to tell, no matter where they’re from. You can buy your tickets here, so long as you hurry. Don’t miss The Last Ship before it sails away!