(CBS SF) – Singer-songwriter Sting’s new musical “The Last Ship” has found a nice berth on Broadway.
Producer Jeffrey Seller said Wednesday that the show – inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up in a shipbuilding community in northeast England – will start performances Sept. 30 at the Neil Simon Theatre. Opening night will be Oct. 26.
“The words are there. The music is there. It’s time to get into the room and make the play,” said Seller, who has won Tony Awards for “Rent,” “Avenue Q” and “In the Heights.” “We look forward to getting to work.”
The story centers on a man from a seafaring town who travels the world for 14 years only to return to find the shipyard’s future in grave danger and his sweetheart engaged to someone else. Sting, who was raised in northeast England, has been working on it for four years.
“People ask if it’s autobiographical. The only real answer is I think it’s emotionally autobiographical but it’s not autobiographical. There’s no rock singer in `The Last Ship.’ But I certainly think that Sting is inspired by his youth and he’s working through a lot of emotions that all of us are working with as we get older,” said Seller.
The musical has a story by “Red” playwright John Logan and “Next to Normal” writer Brian Yorkey. It will be directed by Joe Mantello, who helmed “Wicked” and have choreography by Steven Hoggett, who did the same for “Once.”
Before coming to Broadway, “The Last Ship” will make its world premiere next summer at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre.
It will star Michael Esper, who was on Broadway in “American Idiot” and “The Lyons” and Rachel Tucker, an Irish singer and actress who has been in “Wicked” in London. The cast also includes Jimmy Nail, Aaron Lazar, Sally AnnTriplett, Collin Kelly-Sordelet and Fred Applegate.
The sets and costumes will be by Tony nominee David Zinn, the lighting design will be by Tony winner Christopher Akerlind and the sound design will be by Tony winner Brian Ronan.
Sting, a 16-time Grammy Award winner and former lead singer of The Police, last year released a new CD also called “The Last Ship,” which inspired the show. A concert he gave of the songs will be broadcast Feb. 21 on PBS.
“Many of those songs are in the show, some of those songs are not in the show, and he’s already written new songs that are in the show that are not on that CD,” said Seller. “It’s Sting’s singular expression of this play but it is not the play.”
Sting’s foray into musical theater comes amid a surge in singer-songwriters from the world of pop and rock aiming for stages. Sting joins a list that includes Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, Sarah McLachlan, Dave Stewart, Tori Amos, Edie Brickell, David Byrne, Fatboy Slim, Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello.
It’s tricky territory even for the biggest music stars. Elton John was humbled by the failed “Lestat” but found success with “Billy Elliot” and “The Lion King.” U2’s Bono and The Edge finally got on track with “Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark,” after numerous postponed openings. And Lauper won the Tony last year with “Kinky Boots.” But then there’s “The Capeman” by Paul Simon, regarded as one of Broadway’s biggest flops.
“I have continually been impressed by and rewarded by Sting’s depth of musical knowledge,” Seller said. “Sting certainly came to this never having written a musical but he has been an extraordinary student of musical theater, he’s an extraordinary collaborator and he has been an ideal artist in making this play.”
Sting is set to perform along with Paul Simon together on the SAP Center stage in San Jose, Monday, February 17.
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