UPDATE, 6:40 A.M., with more information following the first paragraph:
On Broadway, January is the cruelest month, when faltering shows fall by the wayside to make room for mewling newcomers hoping to score with critics and customers alike. Early Tuesday morning, the producers of The Last Ship conceded defeat, despite the heroic efforts of pop superstar Sting to keep afloat the show that marked his celebrated debut as composer and lyricist. Faced with an indifferent audience and little prospect for improvement despite the singular gesture in which Sting himself even took to the stage in a leading role, the $15 million vessel will be mothballed following the evening performance on Saturday, January 24.
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The musical, a roman a clef set in a Northeast England shipyard marked for shuttering, will have played 134 performances at the Nederlander-owned Neil Simon Theatre, following a 5-week tryout last summer in Chicago. While most critics were enthusiastic about Sting’s songs and the staging by director Joe Mantello and choreographer Steven Hogget, there was less support for the somewhat lugubrious book by John Logan and Brian Yorkey.
Despite a deftly executed score ranging from choral roof-raisers and torchy ballads to humorous jigs and duets, the downbeat theme of a prodigal (played by Michael Esper) returning to his hometown in its darkest time to reclaim the girl he left behind (Rachel Tucker) didn’t inspire audiences to tell their friends that The Last Ship was a must-see. That, in the end—a fatal lack of urgent word-of-mouth—spelled the show’s doom (though an incomprehensible advertising campaign didn’t help).
Even after Sting joined the cast in December—playing Jackie White, the character who inspires the working men and women to build one last ship as an act of defiance and triumph—the show never caught fire at the box office. It will very likely close at a total loss to producers Jeffrey Seller, Kathryn Schenker, Kevin McCollum, Sander Jacobs, James L. Nederlander, Roy Furman, Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss of its capitalization.
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