Tuesday night marked Sting’s debut in his own Broadway musical, “The Last Ship.” He was on Broadway over twenty years ago in a failed production of “The Threepenny Opera.” So coming into “The Last Ship” took guts and it also showed time heals all wounds. In his first performance, the composer of what is invariably the best new score on Broadway in some time, acquitted himself beautifully.
He’s taking over not the lead, but the part Jimmy Nail plays as the foreman of the Wallsend shipyard that’s being shut down. When Sting first appeared on a set of stairs and looked down at the audience, I really thought his thought balloon was “Holy cow, what did I agree to?” But a few minutes in and he settled down, loosening up and belting his own songs with his strong, trademark voice. In short order Sting did the impossible: he blended in and stood out.
“The Last Ship” is a bewilderment. The music and staging are phenomenal, the cast is top notch. Everyone who sees it loves it. But a marketing misstep early on may have turned off female ticket buyers. The show seemed like it was just about ships, and men in peacoats. FALSE. It’s a romantic triangle with gorgeous melodies and many women in the cast who give award winning performances. It’s also about fathers and sons and legacies. And “The Last Ship” is also a fairy tale in many regards. It’s not meant to be realistic.
Next Tuesday the cast CD comes out. One listen will explain all to potential ticket buyers. It’s just hit after hit. Besides Sting’s well known songs like “All This Time” and “When We Dance,” all the new songs classics in the making. You can’t stop humming them or singing them. They’re that good.
Sting will be in the show until January 9th. Then Jimmy Nail comes back. Either way you can’t lose. “The Last Ship” has to sail through the spring, when it will pick up momentum in Tony Awards season. And the nice thing, parents can go with teens 12 and up.
As for Sting, after a weekend at the Kennedy Center, he sailed through his first show and got the right laughs, too. No mistakes, no one fell off a ladder or missed a cue. Good stuff. We’ll keep checking in.