I don’t think I have ever felt as emotionally moved in any theatre as I was this evening during the opening night of ‘The Last Ship’ - the debut musical from former frontman of The Police; Sting, currently at the Liverpool Playhouse this week as part of its U.K. Tour.
It really is a phenomenal piece of theatre, with an all important winning formula of; a fantastic score, a spellbinding cast and the most beautiful captivating plot.
‘The Last Ship’ tells the story of a community facing the demise of its shipbuilding industry set in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, the story focuses on the struggles faced by the lead ‘Gideon Fletcher’ played by former Coronation Street actor Richard Fleeshman, with Gideon returning home after seventeen years at sea, tensions between past and future flare in both his family and his town.
The shipyard, around which the local town depends is closing and no-one knows what will become of everyone’s future only that a half-built ship towers over the street.
The musical although not about Sting by name, comes across very personal and when you listen to the score throughout, you can tell it’s a Sting penned piece, albeit with a Celtic twang, with a change in mood - creating musical anthems instead of the usual pop hits.
The cast are absolutely phenomenal and work extremely hard to put even more emotion and energy into these insightful songs, the lead Fleeshman delivers a convincing performance as ‘Gideon’ alongside love interest ‘Meg’ played by Frances McNamee, the talented pair’s chemistry on stage is just perfect and the set of lungs on McNamee is a jaw dropping revelation every time she sings, what a voice!
The entire cast are so talented but Special mention must go to Joe McGann who plays ‘Jackie’ the foreman and Charlie Hardwick who plays his devoted wife, these two will have you laughing one minute and in floods of tears the next, it was a sheer privilege to watch on stage together.
There is such power and energy within the show’s feet stomping ensemble that it simply takes your breath away, they deliver a rousing performance throughout with extra oomph and passion displayed, it’s something I’ve never seen orchestrated quite so effectively before as with this piece.
The staging by 59 Productions is ingenious and creates the perfect setting, with gigantic projections of black and white footage beaming out onto shipyard structures and it has the capability to change from the shipyard to a church effortlessly, it’s extremely effective.
Although this musical is only just reaching the U.K. shores, it’s not a new musical as such, Directed by esteemed Northern Stage Artistic Director; Lorne Campbell, The show, first premiered in Chicago in 2014, and was originally inspired by Sting's 1991 album The Soul Cages, in which he reflected on the death of his father. You can definitely see echoes of that album in this reboot, focussing on family, loss and togetherness, but the piece has been adapted somewhat since its US debut and it’s been made more subtle for the British audiences, making this a more intimate experience which suits this piece so much better.
I’m almost lost for words at the sheer feat of this musical, it tugs at every single one of your heart strings while delivering an uplifting, empowering message; with subtle humour when needed, and it’s got everything you could possibly want out of musical.
Verdict: This is a musical Revolution! I think it’s the BEST Musical I’ve ever seen!
Reviewer: Max Eden
Reviewed: 9th April 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★★★