NEW YORK — The doctrine of The Last Ship (***½ out of four), a poignant, generous new low-pitched that non-stop Sunday during a Neil Simon Theatre, is that we can go home again. And again.
Sting, a show’s composer and lyricist, expelled an manuscript in 1991, The Soul Cages, desirous by his lady in Wallsend, a shipbuilding city in northeast England, and his difficult attribute with his father, who had recently died. Ship is set in Wallsend, and a protagonist, Gideon Fletcher — not a outrageous widen from Sting’s given name, Gordon Sumner — is a excessive son who, carrying trafficked widely, earnings to weep his dad’s passing.
Three songs from Sting’s catalog, including dual from Cages, have been repurposed for a show. Ship‘s British, working-class turf might seem familiar, too, if you’ve seen The Full Monty, Billy Elliot or Kinky Boots.
But Gideon’s story, that indeed bears small similarity to Sting’s (the impression never gets abounding or famous, for starters), feels distant some-more strange than that of many contemporary low-pitched heroes. Its subjects embody opposite kinds of love, regretful and familial, explored by a cocktail star and his collaborators, librettists John Logan and Brian Yorkey and executive Joe Mantello, with wit and imagination.
When Gideon, played by a robust, amiable Michael Esper, searches for Meg, a lady he left behind 15 years ago — to turn a sailor, rather than follow his father into a shipbuilding trade — he finds a singular mother, whose son, Tom, happens to be 15. Meg also has a beau, Arthur, a former shipbuilder promoted to a corporate position, who is blazingly decent, and clinging to Tom.
After it’s announced that a shipyard will tighten down, to make approach for cheaper labor, a secular village priest, Father O’Brien, persuades a workers to challenge their former employers and build their possess ship. Gideon, disarmed by their bravery and unfortunate to win Meg back, swallows his ambivalence and joins them. So does Tom, fueling a adversary between Gideon and Arthur.
There is some hokum along a way, with worldly ladies and gents partying and contrary in a internal pub. But Stephen Hoggett’s choreography also evokes a tender vitality and severe beauty of these characters to refreshing effect. The group jump and soar as an prolongation of their unmannered virility, not in rebuttal of it, while a women — quite Rachel Tucker’s feisty, touching Meg — pierce with a erotic certainty that can’t be taught in class.
The songs, notwithstanding a few mushy touches, are melodically and emotionally vital, charity manly vehicles for performers such as a smashing Fred Applegate, expel as Father O’Brien, and Jimmy Nail, who plays a crusty maestro laborer, and whose hazed though siren-like voice evokes Sting’s some-more scarcely than Esper’s.
By a deeply inspiring final scene, Gideon, Meg and a others have schooled that love, in all of a forms, can engage vouchsafing go — of grievances, dreams, even people. That’s frequency a novel concept, though The Last Ship creates it feel surprisingly fresh.