Oct 26, 2014
If you’ve attended any of the packed previews of The Last Ship at the Neil Simon Theater, you may have noticed its originator and composer Sting lurking about. At your surprise to see him, he exclaims, “It’s my baby!” Indeed, this musical, with book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey, under Joe Mantello’s direction and with choreography by Steven Hoggett, is an absolute must-see about a young man who leaves home and family to travel the world, only to return after fifteen years to a place altered by modernity, what the British metaphysical poets called mutability. This change is most dramatically felt by a community losing its traditions of shipbuilding, and the work that sustained them literally and spiritually for generations.
The young man, Gideon (younger, Collin Kelly-Sordelet, older Michael Esper), seems in arrested development, a child-man wanting everything as it was. But it is “a different moon,” and he grows up fast. The location is Northern England whence Sting hails, from Newcastle, so close to Hadrian’s Wall, a border to Scotland, a locale that explains the accents, dialect, and syntax, as in one of my favorite songs, “What say you, Meg?” (Meg is Rachel Tucker) which comes when Gideon, still in love with the girl he left behind, wants her to marry him, even though she is now with Arthur (a worthy opponent in Aaron Lazar).
A note here about David Zinn’s scene design, so imaginative, breathtaking and mythic: the ship in all its immense grandeur is an abstract backdrop of sea-worthy glory, a mix of rust and blue-greens. Like all the talent involved in this production, the art is first rate, offering an unforgettable visual denouement.
Sting was an English teacher before he became STING. These epic journeys, quests for identity, paternity, and manhood, must come spilling out of his head. Father Jim is such a rich transformative figure that Fred Applegate who has performed the role from the beginning of Sting’s birthing this project, said he’s quit jobs every time this ship was set to sail. The actor said, if this vessel was heading to Broadway, “I wanted to be the one to play the good Father.”