Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sting’s “Message in a Bottle” Finally Opens for 2 Weeks in New York, It Should Be on Broadway


I gather Sting’s “Message in a Bottle,” directed and choreographed by the remarkable Kate Prince, has had runs in the UK, Australia, and in some US cities. Last night it arrived at City Center on West 55th St. and the big takeaway is that it should be on Broadway.

“Message in Bottle” is a surprisingly sensational mix of Kate Prince’s dance numbers in collaboration with about two dozen of Sting’s famous compositions (which he has completely re-recorded to new orchestrations), performed by Prince’s exceptional dance troupe including co-choreographer and star Lukas McFarlane. Every one of the performers is sensational, I might add.

Some reviews have called “Message in a Bottle” ‘thrilling’ but that’s an understatement. It’s certainly not what I expected, which was just to see some good modern dance acting out Sting’s hit records. This is fully not that at all, but a complete new piece from top to bottom that is moving, rich, and resonant.

I’ll start with the music, which would be miraculous to have on a CD soundtrack. Working with Alex Lacamoire, Martin Terefe, Oskar Winberg, David McEwan, and DJ Walde, Sting has deconstructed all his hits and rebuilt them for a stage show in a most unique way. His voice has never sounded this good maybe ever, brought out I think by the new arrangements. You think you know songs like “Invisible Sun” or “King of Pain,” but they are as fresh as ever in this environment. It’s a tribute to Sting’s catalog that it never gets old — much like the Beatles, Elton John, or Billy Joel.

“Message” is no slappdash jukebox musical, either. Dramaturg Lolita Chakrabarti has fashioned a story using the songs — instead of the songs using the story. There’s no dialogue. The songs speak for the dancers in new ways, re-referencing them from our memories into this world. She’s created a family suffering through a dystopian civil war — much more deeply experienced than in the current film of that name. Sting’s mesmerizing bass rhythms propel the action.

With Prince’s troupe pushing the dancing to exciting, acrobatic ballet, the show reminded me a lot the Beatles’ “LOVE” show with Cirque du Soleil — minus the extravagant costumes and sets. “Message” has a spare tone to it, and let the music and dance speak for itself. But in the same way that George Martin went back and made a jigsaw puzzle of the Beatles music, Lacamoire has done something similar here. If you know the songs, there are countless welcome surprises.

“Message in a Bottle” is a rare treat. If nothing else, I hope City Center can extend the run. Some other new Broadway shows will not last very long. But shows has legs — well, lots of them — that should keep it running and running.

“Message in a Bottle” is a Sadler’s Wells and Universal Music UK production co-produced with Eliza Lumley, Birmingham Hippodrome and The Lowry, Salford.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
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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