Sunday, May 26, 2024

Broadway: Sting Sails “The Last Ship” One More Time in Joyous Show for Actors Fund


Sting is back from his world tour with Paul Simon, which followed his run as actor/composer of Broadway’s “The Last Ship.” So what did he do last night? Perform most of the songs in a pared down version of the show, two performances, for The Actors Fund at the McKittrick Hotel (home of “Sleep no More”).

The rocker turned Broadway composer has a Tony nomination for Best Score of a Musical, and could actually win– and should. He’s up against the fun but “Spamalot”-like “Something Rotten” (funny songs, but no keepers), and “Fun Home” (sad songs that sound like Sondheim-lite).

Hearing the songs from “The Last Ship” a few months after it closed was like meeting up with old friends. The title song is so catchy you can’t get it out of your head. Same for the great stomping “What Have You Got?” (not the real title, but that’s what I call it). The lush ballads are just gorgeous– from “What Say You Meg” to “The Night the Pugilist Learned How to Dance.”

Sting– with the eminently agreeable Jimmy Nail performing, and singing siren Jo Lawry– also added back “And Yet,” a beautiful samba number that was cut after the run in Chicago a year ago. The audience, knowing it from Sting’s album of the show’s songs, cheered when they heard it.

There were two shows last night at the McKittrick. The first one was precise and studied, as musical director Rob Mathes had rearranged the music to fit the small combo on the intimate stage. In between shows, Sting and wife Trudie Styler and a few friends were packed into a small dressing room where they dined on cold chicken and spicy pieces of steak on skewers. Jazz trumpet star Chris Botti stopped by. Hot tea with honey was made with an electric pot and poured into Dixie cups. “The glamorous rock life,” someone quipped.

The second show proved a joyous rave as a gang of “Last Ship” cast members showed up and joined in from the back of the small room as if they were still in the Wallsend bar on the stage of the Neil Simon Theater. The cast is still devoted to the show, even as they look for new jobs. They knew all the words, and sang them with gusto. A couple– husband and wife– just got in as the doors closed. They stood in the back, among the rousing cast. “We thought this would be a bad spot,” the husband observed. He was beaming. “But now we’re in the middle of everything!”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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