The Last Ship (musical)

The Last Ship is an original musical with music and lyrics by Sting and a book by Lorne Campbell. Following a UK national tour and subsequent six-week run at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, it embarked on a US national tour with the official opening at the Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles on 22 January 2020. Inspired by Sting's own childhood experiences and the shipbuilding industry in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, an earlier version of the musical with book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey played at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago, before moving to the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in 2014. The musical received two Tony Award nominations in 2015, for Best Original Score and Best Orchestrations.[1]

The Last Ship
The Last Ship Musical 2020.jpg
Official poster of 2020 production
BookLorne Campbell
John Logan (Original Book)
Brian Yorkey (Original Book)
Productions2014 Chicago
2014 Broadway
2016 Salt Lake City
2016 UK national tour
2019 Toronto
2020 US national tour


In September 2011, it was confirmed that British musician Sting was working on a musical,[2] following rumours the previous year.[3] A first reading took place in Manhattan in October that year,[4] with a further reading in Newcastle in February 2012[5] and ultimately a full staged reading[6] for the musical was held in 2013.[7] In September 2013, the show was officially confirmed and it was announced that the show would premiere in Chicago in 2014.[8]

The Last Ship was initially inspired by Sting's 1991 album The Soul Cages[9] and Sting's own childhood experiences, particularly his relationship with his father who had been an engineer in a family of shipwrights.[10][11] It tells the story about community and the demise of the shipbuilding industry in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, with the closure of the town's Swan Hunter shipyard.[12][13] "I did everything in my power to escape Wallsend... I became successful, but I owe a debt to that community. This play is me trying to honour that community, trying to pay back what they gave me -- a sense of self but also the engine that allowed me to escape. That's the strange paradox. I love where I come from, I'm glad I escaped, at the same time I need to tell that story as a sort of 'soul debt'."[11]

The show has a book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey[14] and is directed by Joe Mantello,[15] with choreography by Steven Hoggett,[16] set and costume design by David Zinn,[17] lighting design by Christopher Akerlind[18] and sound design by Brian Ronan.[19]

The show features a score by Sting[20] that includes mostly original material, as well as four previously-written songs: "Island of Souls" and "All This Time" from The Soul Cages, "When We Dance" from the 1994 album Fields of Gold: The Best of Sting 1984–1994, and "Ghost Story" from the 1999 album Brand New Day. Speaking in 2011, Brian Yorkey said: "He's writing great theater music... It's very, very distinctly Sting but it also is theatre music. It's not just pop music transposed into the theatre."[21]

The Last Ship is Sting's first stage musical. He had previously co-written the score for the 2000 animated Disney musical film The Emperor's New Groove, although only two of his songs ended up in the film after heavy studio retooling.[22]

Sting's eleventh studio album, titled The Last Ship, featuring music from, or originally intended for the musical,[23] was released on 24 September 2013.[24] The album marked his first release of original material since his 2003 album Sacred Love[23] and his first foray into musical theatre.[25] Sting had suffered from writer's block and credited the show with giving him a reason to write songs again.[26] Sting held a series of concerts at The Public Theater in October 2013,[27] featuring music from the show and told stories of the making of the musical.[28] The concert was later broadcast on PBS[29] as part of its Great Performances series.[30]

After the "unsurprising"[31] closure of the Broadway run of the show, many observers commented that Newcastle or another venue in the UK would have been "a more natural home"[32] for the show, which was "a tough sell"[33] for the US. "Tyneside accents and the decline of Britain’s industrial heartland aren’t naturally in the wheelhouse of Manhattan’s jewellery-rattling theatregoers."[31] Sting has been dismissive of the argument.[32]

The musical was produced later in the UK, with a new book. One of the major changes in the new production was the removal of the significant figure of a priest, as well as many religious references.

Roles and principal castsEdit

Character Chicago
Original Broadway cast
UK/Ireland tour cast
Toronto cast
National tour cast
Gideon Fletcher Michael Esper Richard Fleeshman Oliver Savile
Jackie White Jimmy Naila Joe McGann Sting
Peggy White Sally Ann Triplett Charlie Hardwick Jackie Morrison
Meg Dawson Rachel Tucker Frances McNamee
Joe Fletcherb Jamie Jackson Sean Kearns
Tom Dawson & Young Gideon Collin Kelly-Sordelet Matt Corner Barney Wilkinson Joseph Peacock
Young Meg Dawn Cantwell Parisa Shahmir Jade Sophia Vertannes
Billy Thompson Craig Bennett Joe Caffrey
Davey Harrison Matthew Stocke Kevin Wathen Matt Corner
Freddy Newlandsb Eric Anderson Sean Kearns
Adrian Sanderson Rich Hebert Charlie Richmond Marc Akinfolarin
Beatrice Dees Shawna M. Hamic Annie Grace Orla Gormley
Ellen Dawson N/A Katie Moore Sophie Reid
Baroness Tynedale N/A Penelope Woodman Annie Grace
Father James O'Brien Fred Applegate N/A
Arthur Millburn Aaron Lazar N/A
Jessie Flynn Leah Hocking N/A
Sailor Drew McVety N/A
  • ^a Sting replaced Nail as Jackie White from 9 December 2014 until the show's Broadway closing on 25 January 2015.
  • ^b Since the 2018 UK tour production, the roles of Joe Fletcher and Freddy Newlands have been played by the same actor.


Musical numbersEdit

The following is the list of musical numbers in the Broadway production. The musical uses a twelve-member orchestra consisting of keyboard, piano, guitar, bass, drums, Northumbrian smallpipe, flute, whistle, melodeon, fiddle, cello and percussion.[39]

Toronto (2019)

Original Broadway cast albumEdit

The Last Ship (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Soundtrack album cast recording by
Released16 December 2014 (2014-12-16)
StudioAvatar Studios
ProducerRob Mathes

The original Broadway cast recording was released on 16 December 2014.[40]

1."Island of Souls"6.35
2."All This Time"3.17
3."August Winds"2.26
5."If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor"4.13
6."Dead Man's Boots"2.55
7."The Last Ship (Part One)"2.10
8."Sail Away"2.11
9."The Last Ship (Part Two)"2.37
10."What Say You Meg?"3.53
11."We’ve Got Now’t Else"3.26
12."When We Dance"4.25
13."Mrs. Dees' Rant"2.51
14."The Night the Pugilist Learned How to Dance"4.06
15."So To Speak"3.17
16."Show Some Respect"4.03
17."It's Not the Same Moon"4.28
18."Underground River"2.37
19."Ghost Story"4.43
20."The Last Ship (Finale)"2.05
21."What Say You Meg? (Bonus track)"4.02


Chicago and BroadwayEdit

On 19 September 2013, it was announced that the show would begin its world premiere with a pre-Broadway Chicago tryout.[41] Tickets for the tryout went on sale on 14 February 2014.[42] Previews for the Chicago run of the show began on 10 June 2014 at the Bank of America Theatre, the show opened on 25 June 2014, and played for 33 days total until 13 July 2014.[43][44]

Following completion of the tryout in Chicago, The Last Ship transferred to the Neil Simon Theatre on Broadway in New York.[45] Previews started playing at the Neil Simon Theater on 29 September 2014,[46] and the official opening night was 26 October 2014.[47][48] Sting joined the cast on stage during the curtain call on opening night. Celebrities including Billy Joel, Robert De Niro and Liam Neeson were in attendance.[49] In a bid to help falling ticket sales, creator and musician Sting joined the cast for a limited run from 9 December 2014 to 24 January 2015,[50] replacing Jimmy Nail.[51]

Despite sales increasing with Sting in the cast and producers stating he had had a "galvanising effect", the decision was made to close the show on 24 January 2015.[52]

Salt Lake CityEdit

The Last Ship was produced in Salt Lake City, Utah at the Roy W. and Elizabeth E. Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre at the University of Utah campus from 16 September 2016 through 1 October 2016, making its regional premiere in Salt Lake City in the first production after its Broadway run.

On 22 September, Sting joined the cast at the curtain call of that evening's performance, After a standing ovation, Sting thanked the "amazing cast" and said it was "surreal" to see the story of his English shipbuilding home transported to the middle of Utah.

"I loved the reaction," he said. "I loved sitting among you all and hearing you laugh and hearing you cry."[53]

Turku, FinlandEdit

A new (non-replica) production of The Last Ship (fin. Viimeinen Laiva) opened in Turku, Finland, on 15 September 2017 at Turku City Theatre. The full show was performed in the Finnish language.[54] Turku is a very famous shipbuilding city in Finland. One of the world's biggest cruise ships, the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas, was built at the Turku shipyard.

United Kingdom and IrelandEdit

In October 2017, it was announced The Last Ship would be embark on a UK and Ireland tour,[55] beginning at Northern Stage in Newcastle upon Tyne 12 March 2018,[56] closing 7 July 2018 at Lyric Theatre, part of The Lowry in Salford.[57] The production features a new book by director Lorne Campbell.[58] Notable casting included Joe McGann as Jackie White, Richard Fleeshman as Gideon Fletcher, Charlie Hardwick as Peggy White and Francess McNamee as Meg Dawson.[59] Jimmy Nail had been due to reprise the role he created on Broadway of Jackie White, however negotiations stalled and his offer to perform on the tour was withdrawn.[60]


The show ran in Toronto, Ontario, at the Princess of Wales Theatre between 9 February and 24 March 2019. The production featured a new cast, including Sting as Jackie White.[61]

US tourEdit

The US tour of The Last Ship debuted on January 22 at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles.[62] The musical then moved to San Francisco, opening on February 25 at the Golden Gate Theatre.[63] The US tour, however, was then suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tour was scheduled to stop in Washington, DC, Minneapolis, and Detroit through April 2020.


The Theatre of West Pomerania and Theater Koblenz rescheduled their productions of The Last Ship in 2021 after the 2020 versions were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [64]


Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2015 Drama Desk Awards[65] Outstanding Choreography Steven Hoggett Nominated
Outstanding Music Sting Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Rob Mathes Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical Brian Ronan Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[66] Outstanding New Broadway Musical Nominated
Outstanding Book of a Musical John Logan
Brian Yorkey
Outstanding New Score Sting Nominated
Tony Awards[67] Best Original Score Nominated
Best Orchestrations Rob Mathes Nominated


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External linksEdit