“The Last Ship” is ready to sail. I stopped in to see a Tuesday night performance of Sting’s musical, directed by Joe Mantello, last night. I must say the show, which began in Chicago last June, seems ship shape and ready to launch. “The Last Ship” is the rare thing on Broadway these days: a totally original musical, a work of fiction created just for the stage. “If/Then” and “The Book of Mormon” are the only other such musical endeavors currently playing on the Great White Way.
This is no easy feat: “Beautiful” came with a score and the well known Brill Building story. “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is based on a novel. Most of the other musicals are based on movies or books. The love story of Gideon and Meg, set against the end of the shipbuilding business in Northern England, is totally original. The audience loves the show, and I give them credit: it’s one of the few stories they’ve never heard before. You’ve actually got to pay attention as it unfolds.
The good news is that the Neil Simon Theater looked about 90% full last night. A big busload of customers came from somewhere. There were a lot of Russians sitting next to me. In front of me, fans of the show sang along with the eminently hummable songs. The score is just amazing, even better sung by the cast, the chorus, with Rob Mathes conducting the big orchestra. The music is really exhilarating.
Getting ready for Sunday night’s opening, Mantello and co. have tweaked and streamlined. The show moves a nice pace, never slow, always engaging. I think Jimmy Nail, an authentic British performer from Newcastle, is going to be a revelation to audiences here. The principals are all wonderful– I have a thing for Sally Ann Triplett. And Fred Applegate is just the heart and soul of the show.
So hoist the masts and dig up all the nautical cliches you can think of for Sunday night’s opening. And get your tickets now before the prices go up on Monday.