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"The Last Ship", by Sting, Takes the Neil Simon Theatre by Storm
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"The Last Ship", by Sting, Takes the Neil Simon Theatre by Storm

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The Last Ship
(The Last ShipWebsite)

Music & Lyrics by Sting
Book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey

Michael Esper, Rachel Tucker
Jimmy Nail, Aaron Lazar, Sally Ann Triplett
Collin Kelly-Sordelet, Fred Applegate
And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Directed by Joe Mantello
Choreography by Steven Hoggett
Music Direction, Orchestration, Arrangements by Rob Mathes

At the
Neil Simon Theatre
250 West 52nd Street

Scenic & Costume Design: David Zinn
Lighting Design: Christopher Akerlind
Sound Design: Brian Ronan
Music Coordinator: Dean Sharenow
Assoc. Music Director: Dan Lipton
Press Representative: Sam Rudy Media Relations
Production Supervisor: Brian Lynch
Production Stage Manager: J. Philip Bassett
Company Manager: Nick Lugo
Casting: Telsey + Company, Craig Burns, CSA
UK Casting: Pippa Ailion, CDG
General Management: Baseline Theatrical/Andy Jones

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 29, 2014 Matinee

I was pleasantly surprised that I found The Last Ship, with music and lyrics by the rock star, Sting, about whom I knew little, so satisfying on so many levels. Musically, the songs are filled with poignancy and angst, dynamic refrains, and eloquent vocals in richly toned solos. John Logan and Brian Yorkey wrote the book with an abundant, but clearly defined cast and storyline. Sting has fashioned these songs from his own background, growing up in the shadows of shipyards in Wallsend, northeast England. The story and music are all rough around the edges, and the stage is often foggy and stark, with steel hoists and girders one might just find in a shipyard of yore, but a yearning, romantic thread, woven into the rough-hewn plot, transports the characters into a searing struggle to survive and a driven struggle for love.

Young Gideon (Collin-Kelly Sordelet) is in love with Young Meg (Dawn Cantwell), and after Gideon’s father, Joe Fletcher (Jamie Jackson), sustains a serious injury, working in the shipyard, Gideon leaves town to seek his true calling and fortune, promising to return to his beloved. Meg is devastated, but stays in town, and, as fate would have it, is already pregnant with Gideon’s child. Years pass, and Meg moves in with Arthur Millburn (Aaron Lazar), who raises her young son, Tom, as his own. Also, as years pass, the shipyards are closed, as business has found far, less costly shores, and the men need work. Arthur works for the businessman, who’s looking to sell scrap metal and is willing to hire the former builders for rock bottom wages. Suddenly the spotlight is on Jackie White (Jimmy Nail), who leads protests and forms a pact with the men to build one last big ship, right there in Wallsend, which they may all sail to wherever (that dream is left foggy, as foggy as the morning air). The grown Gideon Fletcher (Michael Esper), who returns after fifteen years, meets the grown Meg Dawson (Rachel Tucker), and this Gideon gets his spine and fights a tough battle to win Meg from Arthur, whom Gideon claims could never love her as he always has.

Lots of action happens in in the pub, with other formidable characters, such as Peggy White (Sally Ann Triplett) and Father O’Brien (Fred Applegate). In fact, the stage is often strewn with so many sub-plots and secondary characters, that it’s a good thing the girders and beams often lift for expansive space for the choreography and ensemble songs. Yet, throughout, certain characters glow from within and catch the eye. One is Father O’Brien, with Mr. Applegate a beloved drinking partner, as well as doctor of the soul. His banter is witty, frank, and as raucous as wind of the sea. He leads Sting’s title song in Act I. Also in Act I, Mr. Millburn sings a throbbing “What Say You, Meg”, in his efforts to woo his conflicted girlfriend. Another standout song in the first act is “Shipyard”, led by Mr. Nail with the entire Company in refrains and dance. Steven Hoggett’s choreography is mostly foot-stomping and leaping up and down various chairs, ship braces, tables, and more. This music and dance is decidedly masculine and fervent. “Island of Souls”, in an Act II reprise, is sung by both young and grown Megs and young and grown Gideons, to dramatic and riveting effect, and the show nears its end with two songs sung by Gideon Fletcher and young Tom Dawson, with the reprise of “August Winds” especially meaningful.

Sting’s music and lyrics could be heard again, after the run of this show, as even a show trimmed for small, intimate theatre, with a streamlined cast, would be riveting. Meanwhile, The Last Ship is well worth the ticket, not only for its music and leads, but also for its transporting set (and costumes) by David Zinn, surreally lit by Christopher Akerlind. Brian Ronan’s sound is crisp, even through the expansive cast. Steven Hoggett’s choreography has a palpable pulse, adding energy and zest, and Joe Mantello’s direction has created meaningful connections between characters: each spotlighted solo or duo song is glowingly showcased. The book by Logan and Yorkey could have further embellished the role of Peggy White, as well as those of the slick predators, that sought to cheaply exploit the unemployed men, but, in all, it unfolded with cultural texture and historical depth. Kudos to Sting.

Sally Ann Triplett and the
Cast of "The Last Ship"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Rachel Tucker and Michael Esper
in "The Last Ship"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Fred Applegate, Jimmy Nail,
Sally Ann Triplett, and the
Cast of "The Last Ship"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at