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Great Performances | Sting: The Last Ship

Watch Friday, February 21, 2014 at 9pm on WMHT TV.

The 16-time Grammy Award-winning musician performs songs from his new album, The Last Ship, and forthcoming play of the same name in an intimate evening of music and storytelling live at The Public Theater in New York City.

The program offers unique insight into the creative process behind Sting’s latest album and his new musical, premiering June 2014 in Chicago before its debut on Broadway in the fall.  Drawing upon his childhood memories growing up in the shipbuilding community of Wallsend in the northeast of England, Sting provides a glimpse into the narrative of the play through the songs on the new album, inspired by the story of The Last Ship.

He is joined by a 14-piece band, many of whom also hail from the region (Kathryn Tickell on violin and Northumbrian pipes, Peter Tickell on violin and mandolin, Julian Sutton on the melodeon, and the Wilson Family vocalists), including actor and singer Jimmy Nail, who will appear in the upcoming stage production. Also featured is musical director Rob Mathes on acoustic guitar, piano and keyboards, and on background vocals.

The evening was filmed on Sting’s birthday (October 2) at a special fan club performance during a 10-night run of benefit concerts that immediately became one of New York’s hottest tickets. The Public Theater’s artistic director Oskar Eustis observed at the time, “The Last Ship is shaping up to be a masterpiece, both an elegy for and a celebration of the working-class life of the Newcastle shipyards.”

Sting has crafted a richly diverse musical landscape for a close-knit community of original characters. With a backdrop of evocative visual projections, he shares his experience of emerging from a songwriting hiatus to pen his first album of original material in nearly a decade and his very first musical theater score, incorporating a mix of genres and styles ranging from pub-like folk tunes to ballads to a wall of sound from the full band.

 “The memories at the heart of The Last Ship have occupied my mind for most of my life,” said Sting. “I was compelled to tell this story.” Sting’s collaborators on the Broadway-bound production include the Tony-winning team of book writers John Logan (Red, I’ll Eat You Last) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal) along with director Joe Mantello (Wicked).

The musical program is as follows:

  • The Last Ship
  • Shipyard
  • Coming Home’s Not Easy
  • And Yet
  • August Winds
  • What Have We Got?
  • Practical Arrangement
  • What Say You Meg?
  • Dead Man’s Boots
  • Big Steamers
  • Sky Hooks and Tartan Paint
  • Jock the Singing Welder
  • So to Speak
  • Show Some Respect
  • Underground River
  • The Last Ship (Reprise)

Composer, singer, author, actor, activist, Sting was born in Newcastle, England, before moving to London in 1977 to form the Police with Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers. The band released five albums, earned six Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.

Since 1985, Sting has released 11 studio albums as a solo musician and has earned an additional 10 Grammy awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy and three Oscar nominations. Of his latest album, Jim Farber of the New York Daily News opined, “The Last Ship has an intelligence, beauty and pitch-black wit that makes [sic] it both a worthy solo project and a solid blueprint for something to be fleshed out later on stage.”

The Last Ship will open on Broadway in the fall of 2014, following a pre-Broadway world premiere from Tuesday, June 10- Sunday, July 13, 2014, at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre. 

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