The biggest selling point of The Last Ship is also its greatest stumbling block: multiple Grammy winner and Tantra enthusiast Sting, who provides the music and lyrics to his first-ever Broadway show. Fans hoping for the same pop sensibility that turned ”Every Breath You Take” and ”Desert Rose” into hits will be left wanting, as the bulk of Ship’s songs lack the big melodic flourishes that stick around well after the curtain drops.
Instead, the show trots out a series of dirges that lack the dynamism necessary to keep audiences fully engaged throughout the storytelling, which is sometimes hampered by a jumbled plot: After abandoning his working-class British coastal town 15 years ago, Gideon Fletcher (Michael Esper) returns to bury his father, re-kindle a relationship with his then-teenage girlfriend, Meg (Rachel Tucker), and get knee-deep in a labor battle over the closing of the local shipyard.
Despite the relative lack of variety in the music and the hole-friendly narrative, there’s a lot to like about The Last Ship: The show rides efficiently on the crisp direction of Joe Mantello (Wicked), and Steve Hoggett’s choreography squeezes a lot of kinetic juice out of sonic lemons. The cast—particularly Tucker, Colin Kelly-Soredelet as her son, and Fred Applegate as the foul-mouthed local priest—keep the pace up and manage to pull strong character moments out of otherwise uninspired tunes (like the intricately laid out second act reprise of the show-opening ”Island of Souls,” which the cast really seems to relish).
The book, by Tony winners John Logan (Red) and Brian Yorkey (Next to Normal), delivers some unexpected nuance while toggling between the central romantic love triangle and the plight of the working class (though the inimitable Kinky Boots remains the superior blue-collar underdog story on Broadway). But Sting’s score remains a burden, anchoring this Ship when it should be making bigger waves. B-