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Sting's Broadway-Bound New Musical 'The Last Ship' Opens Chicago Run Next Week

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Jun 20, 2014 02:12 PM EDT
Sting at the Tony Awards Sting performs onstage during the 68th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 8, 2014 in New York City (Photo : Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Sting's partially autobiographical new musical The Last Ship, an homage to the shipbuilders of the rocker's childhood home, began previews last week at Chicago's Bank of America Theater in preparation for an official June 25 opening. The show is scheduled to move to Broadway in the fall. Showbiz411's Roger Friedman anticipates that once "tweaked and polished in this out of town run, the show will be a formidable masterwork when it comes to Broadway."

I suppose a sailor spends most of his life on "out of town runs," but the Windy City doesn't feel that way to Sting. "I've been playing in Chicago since 1979," he says, referring to his music career with The Police and as a solo artist, "and it's never struck me as being 'out-of-town'--it's struck me always as being 'town.' So here we are." It's a sentiment millions of Chicagoans would be sure to appreciate.

Directed by two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello (Casa Valentina, Wicked), The Last Ship stars Michael Esper (American Idiot), Rachel Tucker (We Will Rock You) and English TV star and singer-songwriter Jimmy Nail ("Ain't No Doubt"), along with veteran actor Fred Applegate (The Producers, Young Frankenstein, La Cage aux Folles) as a saucy local priest.

These and the other characters are based on the townsfolk Sting grew up among in the proud, close-knit English seafaring town of Wallsend. In the show, one young man dreams of a different future--rather like the composer, perhaps, who did go off to a career slightly removed from shipbuilding.

Sting has always retained his memories and felt it was time to bring his old community to life using his own formidable songwriting and storytelling skills. "When you write someone else's story," he says, "all of your skill sets as a songwriter can come to the fore, without [your] feeling self-conscious."

I was amused to see the following note at the bottom of the show's page at Chicago-Theater.com (where you can also buy tickets online): "Please note that whilst Sting developed the story and composed the songs and score for The Last Ship, he does not perform in the stage production."

I suppose that in a climate where more and more rock and pop stars--Ashlee Simpson, Carly Rae Jepsen and Billy Joe Armstrong, to name a few--have shown up in big musical theater productions on and off Broadway, you can't be too careful when it comes to managing the public's expectations.

The Last Ship's Chicago run continues through July 13.

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Tagssting, The Police, The Last Ship, broadway, Chicago, Joe Mantello, Jimmy Nail, Broadway Musical