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Sting Abandons his Sinking 'Ship'

Friday, January 9, 2015

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Shipbuilding must be in even worse shape than we thought. Even Sting couldn't save it.

Producers of the UK rocker's Broadway musical The Last Ship have announced that the show will close Jan. 24 after just four months—and millions of dollars in losses, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Boy Gets Girl, Boy Builds Ship

The musical, penned by the Newcastle native born Gordon Sumner, "is a semiautobiographical story about a prodigal son who returns to his northern England shipbuilding town to reclaim the girl he abandoned when he fled years before," the Associated Press reports.

Wikipedia /

Sting said he welcomed the difficulty of a musical homage to a doomed shipyard. "You either do ‘Beverly Hills Cop' The Musical or ‘Every Breath You Take’ The Police jukebox musical. I’m not interested."

"He finds the workers are now unemployed and entertaining the idea of building one last boat to show off their skill and pride."

News of the forthcoming project was announced in 2011. In a 2013 interview, Sting recalled as a child watching the huge ships built in the local yards set out to sea.

'Survivor's Guilt'

"There was the shipyard at one end of the town and the coal mine at the other," he said. Finding both industries a poor fit, Sting said, he turned to education and (famously) music.

"And then, in the '80s, everything shut down," the former Police frontman said. "I've carried survivor's guilt ever since."

UK National Archives

Sting, 62, says he felt "survivor's guilt" after the shipbuilding industry collapsed in his native Newcastle. Clydeside and other UK shipyards were in full swing in 1944.

The show opened to lackluster reviews. Audiences found the subject difficult, and the production lost $75,000 a week, reports said.

In an effort to save the sinking Ship, Sting, 62, personally jumped into the lead role on Dec. 9 and gamely performed eight shows a week.

“I’ve been working on this show for five years and been at every rehearsal, every performance, so it’s not like I’ve flown in from Planet Rock Star to save the day,” he told The New York Times.

(Curiously, the show never played in Britain.)

Top-Rung Fall

Reviews and ticket sales improved, but not enough.

Blame abounded. Reports opined that the heavy technical topic was a poor fit for the predominantly female theatre-going audience. That the new compositions didn't rock Sting's core fan base. That the drama should have focused more on its lovers than its shipbuilders. And on and on.

Blethering Scot / Wikipedia

The show drew mixed reviews for its weighty approach, but Sting says he wouldn't have written it any other way.

Sting didn't buy it, even as he joined the list of Good Rockers Who Made Bad Musicals (Bono, Paul Simon, The Edge, etc.).

“I knew going in this was not a shoo-in as a success," he told the Wall Street Journal. "It’s a difficult subject; doing a new original musical is almost never done."

"You either do ‘Beverly Hills Cop' The Musical or ‘Every Breath You Take’ The Police jukebox musical. I’m not interested. I want to do something difficult.

"If I’m going to fall off a ladder, I don’t want to fall off the bottom rung. We went for the top rung here, and I’m very proud of that.”


Tagged categories: Economy; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); North America; Program/Project Management; Shipyards

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