Sunday, November 2, 2014

Shipbuilding in Wallsend

Don't expect to see Sting on stage at the Neil Simon Theatre!
Is there a genre we could call "the working man's musical?"

The Full Monty would fall into this category. Billy Elliot also wore its working class roots with distinction.  Kinky Boots is an exuberant example of this presumptive classification.

The Last Ship, with music and lyrics by Sting and story by Brian Yorkey and John Logan, at the Neil Simon Theatre in an open run, is an illustration of the style gone sadly awry.

Fred Applegate and Jimmy Nail with the cast of The Last Ship.
Photo by Joan Marcus.

With a who-cares plot, choreography (by Steven Hoggett) replaced mostly by stomping, and songs that generally misfire, and seem to be there mostly just for the exposition, The Last Ship is anything but the pride of Wallsend.

Young Gideon (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) sails away from home after his father is injured and before taking on as an apprentice in the shipyards. He wanders on the seas for fifteen years and comes back (played on his return by Michael Esper) too late for his father's funeral.

He has left behind a girl (young Meg played by Dawn Cantwell) to whom he made promises and whom he still seems to love. Meg Dawson (Rachel Tucker playing the adult woman), has a son, Tom (Kelly-Sordelet again), and a new beau, Arthur Millburn (Aaron Lazar). Arthur has run afoul of the townfolks. He is working with the fellow who is taking over the shipyard and transforming it into a new industrial site.

Lead by Jackie White (Jimmy Nail), a foreman at the works before they closed, the weilders refuse to sign on for new jobs and plan to occupy the yards and yes, build The Last Ship.

Collin Kelly-Sordelet as Tom Dawson in a scene from The Last Ship.
Photo by Matthew Murphy.
In the interests of being completely honest with our readers, from the first tune "Island of Souls," I yearned for intermission. By "We've Got Now't Else," the third song from the end of Act I, my passion for escape rivalled young Gideon's. As a born romantic, "What Say You Meg," a quasi-lovesong before the break, was moderately effective.

The minimalist sets by David Zinn are like so much else on the stage of The Last Ship, generically workmanlike. Among the cast, Fred Applegate as Father O'Brien, generic Irish priest with the soul of a rebel, and Collin Kelly-Sordelet as the wise fifteen year old Tom Dawson are standouts. Aaron Lazar is a likeable hero although my suspicion is I was routing for the wrong lover.

For more information about The Last Ship, or to purchase tickets, please visit The Last Ship,

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