Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Sometimes the best stories spring from our personal experiences. Sting has taken that to heart and has created a killer Broadway musical entitled The Last Ship.
The Last Ship tells the story of Wallsend, a seafaring town in England. The small, intimate town revolves around the shipyard and all of the work that comes with it. The musical follows Gideon Fletcher (Michael Esper), an ambitious man who has worked and lived in Wallsend his entire life. One day, he decides his future is far beyond the confines of a ship; so, he takes off on an adventure. Fifteen years later, Gideon returns home to find his once beloved shipyard in danger and the love of his life, Meg (Rachel Tucker), engaged to another man. The town refuses to sit idly by and watch the shipyard disappear with time, so they take matters into their own hands. Gideon soon realizes he left behind far more than he realized, and the town of Wallsend sets out on a mission to save the traditions they all hold dear.
With music and lyrics by sixteen-time Grammy Award winner Sting and a book by Tony Award winners John Logan (Red) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal and If/Then), The Last Ship combines incredible music and writing to create a new Broadway experience. Based on Stings own childhood working in a shipyard, the musical brings realism to the stage that other musicals don’t.
The cast for this musical is simply stunning. There are several key players that help elevate The Last Ship to new and exciting heights. Fred Applegate as Father O’Brien is flawless. His comedic timing and sincerity help bring the characters closer together. Only a few actors can make an audience laugh and cry in the same sentence, and Applegate is one of the select few. Newcomer Collin Kelly-Sordelet makes his Broadway debut in The Last Ship, making his mark in a cast filled with veterans. Sordelet takes on two roles in the show by playing Young Gideon and Meg’s son Tom. He holds his own in musical numbers like “Dead Man’s Boots” and “Ghost Story.” This is a great start for the young actor who is looking at a long and prosperous career on Broadway.
The two main characters Gideon and Meg of course steal the show. Michael Esper is mesmerizing as Gideon. He portrays Gideon’s heartbreak and yearning for a new start effortlessly. It’s hard to take you eyes off him in any scene and his work with the show is spectacular. His shining moment comes in the musical number “Dead Man’s Boots,” during which his feelings are portrayed flawlessly as he tries so hard to continue to hate his father. The heartache in Esper’s eyes tugs on the heartstrings. And of course his duet with Rachel Tucker in “When We Dance” would bring anyone to tears. Their voices fit perfectly together.
Rachel Tucker is the knockout in this musical. Tucker, a seasoned vet from the West End, makes her Broadway debut and it’s perfect. Tucker portrays Meg flawlessly as she shows a strong woman who can’t help but fall back in love with a man who broke her heart fifteen years earlier. Tucker receives a rousing applause during her shining musical number, “If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor.” Her voice is flawless and she hits some incredible notes and carries the song on her shoulders. Here’s to hoping Tucker takes up a more permanent residency on this side of the Pond.
Taking on the director’s seat is Tony Award winner and Emmy nominee Joe Mantello. Mantello is no stranger to the Broadway stage. He is the incredible mind behind numerous Broadway successes such as Wicked, Casa Valentina, Assassins, Take Me Out, Glengarry Glen Ross and numerous others. His laundry list of accomplishments makes him a Broadway favorite. He does an incredible job of bringing the intimacy of the tiny seafaring town to a big Broadway stage. The beautiful and earth bound choreography for this show is done by none other than Tony Award nominee Steven Hoggett. His dance talents are behind some of the biggest hits on Broadway including Once, Peter and the Starcatcher, The Glass Menagerie and Rocky. The choreography is very reminiscent of his work in Once. The movements are sharp and synchronized and help add a drum beat to the songs.
The Last Ship surprises audiences with its music by Sting. Although he is known for his work with The Police in the rock and roll community, the songs don’t feel like pop or rock, but they spring from the situations the characters are faced with and have a very Broadway feel to them. The entire show is very reminiscent of the Tony Award winning show Once, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The only flaw is that the show is very much rooted in building this last ship, a storyline that could be constructed as boring for some audience members. The love story between Gideon and Meg and the choices they make very much take a back seat. The music and choreography are flawless however; the book could use a tune up.
Sadly low tickets sales, (even with Sting joining the cast,) are causing this show to cut its open ended run short on January 24, 2015. If the show were to tweak the book and add in more of the love story, it could have a long run on the West End or on tour. Until The Last Ship sets sail again, make sure to check it out at the Neil Simon Theatre in NYC until January 24, 2015.