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Sting’s “The Last Ship” sinking fast (Review- Broadway) November 22, 2014

Posted by ronannarbor in Broadway Musicals, musical theater, Musicals.
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So the good news from the Neil Simon Theatre is that a group of very talented actors are singing some very good Sting songs in a very well directed (Joe Mantello) and organically choreographed (Steven Hodgett) The Last Ship. The bad news is that the storyline is slight, implausible , and that audiences are not coming (playing at 61% of capacity I can not imagine this ship will stay afloat past the holidays). Seen on a Friday night, the house was far from capacity.

It might be that most reviews mention it is a dark, bleak look at a dying British ship-building town. Well, it’s not dark, and it’s not bleak…the musical brims with life, life-affirmation, and energy.

More realistically, it might be that there isn’t the emotional payoff one expects from this sort of “rally around the boys” material — one need only see the recent British film “Pride” to see how that is done right.  The script here (started by Brian Yorkey and finished by John Logan) is oddly devoid of feeling. Even the big emotional moments feel lackluster.

The same can not be said of Sting’s remarkable pop-rock score: filled with big ballads, contrasted with Celtic bar songs, there is no doubt who the star of this musical is. The songs soar and reverberate with longing, despair, and high hopes. Those are tough shoes to fill for the excellent Michael Esper, but throughout you can’t stop thinking about how much better you liked hearing Sting sing these songs in the recent PBS broadcast. Rachel Tucker is also excellent as the love-torn ex-girlfriend stuck in a triangle with Esper and Aaron Lazar. Brit Jimmy Nail nails his part as the shipyard foreman and the show’s everyman as does Sally Ann Triplett as his wife. Fred Applegate plays the local priest who likes to lift a pint, and young Collin Kelly-Sordelet plays both the younger version of Sting’s alter-ego as well as later, his son.

Oops, see, there I go again — these characters are so intertwined with Sting’s life and his music that their parts become almost superfluous — we are merely observing different actors play their parts and sing his songs, and you never, even for an instant, stop hearing his voice and his longing. And that is a ship that is not sailing along, merely bobbing tied to the shore.

By the time these lovely blokes finish building their last ship and decide to climb aboard for a final ride, the allegory of moving along and loving who you love has hit you over the head so many times, you simply smile and sit back, and go with it.

If you want to take this ride, book your voyage for a performance not that far out. There are no guarantees this ship won’t soon make it’s final trip.




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