Another pre-Broadway World Premiere in Chicago- another hit!. I am not sure if we are the “lucky city” or that our theater audiences are more sophisticated and therefore set the bar at just the right height for the creators of new musicals, but it seems that of late, the shows that start here do well on “The Great White Way”. The newest, “The Last Ship” with a book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey and music/lyrics by Sting is a marvelous tale about a small town where the main work for the men is the shipyard and the building of the vessels that travel the seas and oceans. Our hero, Gideon (a solid performance by Michael Esper) decides to leave as a teen, not wanting to follow the path of his father, grandfather and those that preceded, leaving behind his teen-age girlfriend.
When Gideon comes back, some 15 years later, he finds that his girlfriend, Meg (gloriously played by Rachel Tucker) has a teen-age son and is engaged to another man, who has raised her son, Tommy (deftly handled by Collin Kelly-Sordelet). As it turns out, Tommy’s father is Gideon and we see the struggles of the young man faced with choosing his father or his step-father(the man he has thought of as his father since childhood). We also find that the shipyard is about to become extinct and the entire community will no longer be what it was. The men decide to build just one last ship- one that will be a monument to their very existence and the history of their village and the families that have built ships since time began. Watching these townspeople share their dream of building a ship that will define their existence becomes a shared experience. Not only for the actors on the stage, but for the entire audience who find themselves, during the final scene, wishing that they could be up there putting the final touches on the ship that we see come alive on stage! Of course, there is some comedy in the show, mostly regarding religious beliefs and handled quite well by Fred Applegate as Father O’Brien.
Going into this play, I was not sure what to expect. I had read some “stuff” and thought that this might be a “Kinky Boots” with a shipyard replacing a shoe factory, but was surprised to find myself slipping into the story and feeling the inner feelings of these townspeople. These are the “little people” who do all they are expected to do and who survive with many of us never knowing of their existence. A story such as this brings these people to new heights and reminds us that even the “little people” matter.
This is a well-directed show (Joe Mantello) with choreography (Steven Hoggett) that is very English/Irish in style, almost as if the “Lord of The Dance” inspired many of the steps. The set (David Zinn, who also designed the costumes) is very basic of the times, and does not take away from the story and the music with typical “glitz” that many new Broadway productions feel are more important than the story. In fact, lately, many of the shows use a great deal of technology/video projections which are often a distraction. In this production, the few projections are important and never take away from the lovely story that is being presented to us. It is Sting’s story to tell and while the book is solid, I found that the lyrics and the haunting melodies that Sting has brought to this production are thought-provoking and meaningful. Several songs are reprised (they worked)and “The Last Ship” title song, which is reprised several times is almost poetical in melody and in content. This Pre-Broadway production will continue until July 13th at The Bank Of America Theatre located at 18 West Monroe Street, as part of the Broadway In Chicago series with performances as follows:
Tuesdays 7:30 p.m.
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m. and matinees on 7/2 and 7/9 at 2 p.m.
Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.
Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 7:30 p.m. ( no evenings on 7/6 and 7/13) and then “The Ship Sails On” to Broadway.
Tickets range in price from $33-$100 and are available at all of the Broadway in Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, at all Ticketmaster outlets and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “The Last Ship”.