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Review Roundup: Sting's THE LAST SHIP at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles - What Did the Critics Think?

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Review Roundup: Sting's THE LAST SHIP at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles - What Did the Critics Think?

The Last Ship plays the Ahmanson January 14 -February 16, 2020.

The Last Ship is the heartfelt and empowering musical by multiple Grammy Award® winner Sting. Featuring original music and lyrics by Sting as well as a few of his best-loved songs-"Island of Souls," "All This Time," and "When We Dance"-The Last Ship is coming to Los Angeles after a critically acclaimed Canadian, UK, and Irish tour.

Sting stars as shipyard foreman Jackie White at every performance

Set in the shipbuilding community in Tyne and Wear, UK, The Last Ship tells the story of a young man who returns home after 17 years at sea. Tensions between past and future flare in both his family and his town. He finds that the local shipyard, around which the community has always revolved, is closing, and no one knows what will come next, only that a half-built ship towers over the terraces of working-class homes. With the engine fired and pistons in motion, picket lines are drawn as the foreman and his wife fight to hold their community together in the face of the gathering storm.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Shari Barrett, BroadwayWorld: The real problem with the production is its lengthy, almost three-hour book, written by Lorne Campbell who also directs the tour now onstage at the Ahmanson through February 16. Even more difficult for American audiences is the struggle to understand the language, both when spoken and in Sting's lyrics, given the entire cast's use of the Georgie dialect of Tyneside in the Northeast of England, which is a blend of Scottish and Baltic languages from across the North Sea. Those working in the shipyard could understand each other, which is more than I can say about this reviewer, among others in the audience I overheard complaining about the same thing during intermission.

Charles McNulty, LA Times: Proletariat nobility coexists with mayhem and plaintive Northern accents. Gruff dignity abounds. One of the workers is a brawling drunk. Another spouts literary quotations like a walking edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature. "The Last Ship" is a musical Noah's Ark. The new production, designed to travel by 59 Productions, seems to have been towed into the Ahmanson as a favor to a popular artist. Not that second chances should be denied, but this foundering show looks out of place in its Los Angeles port of call.

Deborah Wilker, The Hollywood Reporter: The workmanlike set from 59 Productions is a versatile beast of catwalks and projection screens doing convincing duty as dock, church, living room, pub and more. It snows, the waves crash against the seawall, silver clouds sail by. The visuals are very well done - but no, the sun never shines. The palette is bleak, the costumes plain, the tone is clear. That, coupled with the actors speaking the northern English dialect known as Geordie - which to this minimally trained ear sounds a bit like Glasgow-meets-Dublin in a bar - may have been off-putting to Broadway audiences expecting something splashy or more familiar, particularly when a rock star's name was attached.

Bondo Wyszpolski, Easy Reader News: Ultimately, though, "The Last Ship" is a bit overlong and tiresome and not very engaging. It's not a work that will further Sting's already impressive legacy, the way that Duncan Sheik's was elevated by "Spring Awakening." It's probably destined to sink beneath the waves of musical history, especially without Sting in the cast. It does, however, try to go out on the highest note possible. I was reminded of Rosie the Riveter as well as those old Soviet Union posters where the workers march forward hand in hand, banners unfurled, chanting how they will stand together and overcome all odds and obstacles thrown their way. But it's only a brief hurrah and a momentary flash of lightning.

Chris Willman, Variety: If the show sometimes seems uncomfortable in traversing lines between sociorealism and sheer show business, there are also aspects in which it benefits from not having to choose one or the other. Sting's Tony-nominated song score is a good example of that: It draws heavily on U.K. roots music for much if not most of the duration, but he's not afraid to go pop when the show needs it, whether that's with a powerful new ballad or, as mentioned before, very brief bits of borrowing from his own "Soul Cages"-era catalog. His heart is clearly in the right place here, as he recalls the bygone England he grew up in, and so is his songwriting soul. Like the troubled ship of the title, his passion project won't endure quite as planned. But as it heads out on tour with an enthusiastic all-singing, all-dancing, all-unionizing cast, there's a word that comes to mind: seaworthy.

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