Interview: Alex Lacamoire Talks Working with Sting on MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

Dance Musical comes to Emerson Colonial Theatre March 26-30

By: Mar. 21, 2024
Interview: Alex Lacamoire Talks Working with Sting on MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
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Interview: Alex Lacamoire Talks Working with Sting on MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

Award-winning composer, arranger, conductor, musical director, music copyist, and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire has collaborated with some of the biggest names in musical theater.

As music supervisor and arranger for “Message in a Bottle,” a dance-theater production fueled by the music of Sting – which comes to Boston's Emerson Colonial Theatre March 26 through 30 on its North American tour – Lacamoire got the chance to work with the 17-time Grammy Award-winning rock icon who has been one of his idols since childhood.

Inspired by Sting’s track “Desert Rose” from his 1999 album “Brand New Day,” the show is an imagined story about one family displaced by war and the three children forced to flee their homeland, and a universal tale of hope, love, and survival. It is set to a score that features some 24 Sting and The Police songs including ”Roxanne,” “Every Breath You Take,” “Fields of Gold,” “Walking on the Moon,” and “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic,” re-recorded by Sting and guest artists including Beverley Knight and Lynval Golding.

Choreographed and directed by Kate Prince, the show, which had its world premiere in February 2020 at Sadler’s Wells’ Peacock Theatre in London’s West End, incorporates a wide array of dance styles ranging from breakdance, hip hop, and contemporary street dance to jazz and a hint of ballet, brought to life by a 22-member company.

The Cuban-American Lacamoire is a four-time Grammy, three-time Tony, three-time Olivier, and Emmy award winner for his work on “Hamilton,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” “In The Heights,” and the FX mini-series “Fosse/Verdon.” He was also the recipient of a first-of-its-kind Kennedy Center Honor for his contribution to “Hamilton.” He served as Executive Music Producer for films including “The Greatest Showman,” “ In The Heights,” “Dear Evan Hansen,” and “Tick, Tick...Boom!”

Currently represented on Broadway by the 2023 revival of “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” for which he is music supervisor, Lacamoire’s upcoming projects include “Five Notes,” a new musical by Gloria Estefan (“On Your Feet!”) and her daughter Emily Estefan.

Lacamoire was in Miami recently, to celebrate his mother’s birthday, when he took a telephone call to discuss “Message in a Bottle” and more.

What attracted you to this project?

I’ve been a fan of Sting and The Police for what feels like forever. I was a child of the 1980s MTV generation, and was obsessed with the “Synchronicity” album and its amazing singles – including “Every Breath You Take,” “Wrapped Around Your Finger,” and “King of Pain.” As I got older, I learned about the earlier Police albums right about the time that Sting was establishing his solo career. Basically, Sting and his music have been a part of my entire life.

I also very much wanted to work with Kate again after we did the stage production Everybody's Talking About Jamie” together. She is an exceptional artist and her approach and style are quite unique. She is also a strong female voice. I was interested in working on one of her full-length projects with her to be able to develop our working relationship.

What’s it like working on a show that connects you so directly with Sting?

It’s been an exciting challenge. Working with Sting as he recorded new versions of his songs was something else. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the days when he was in the studio recording vocals with us. He didn’t micromanage the sessions at all. One day, however, he did give me feedback and asked me to change an octave in “Shadows on the Rain.” Other than that, he was completely open to new interpretations of his music and really great at improvisation.

How did he let you know when he was pleased?

He wrote me a very nice email which I have saved in my keepsake folder.

How did you approach the task of reworking such well-known songs?

It took a mixture of both recreating iconic songs to sound exactly, or at least close to, the way people know and love them, and reimagining others in ways that may surprise people. All our choices are always in service of the story being told onstage, and Kate has been our beacon and leader in terms of threading these songs to shape a beautiful narrative.

Can you give an example of how the new interpretations are different from the originals?

The song “Every Breath You Take” has an established feel in its original form and the lyrics are kind of stalker-ish. So we’ve changed up the arrangement of that one for this show to fit into the story we’re telling.

Do you have favorites among the numbers?

The ones I’m especially proud of are the songs where we re-arranged them in new and unexpected ways. Tracks like “Invisible Sun” and “Every Breath You Take” are presented in new arrangements which both pay homage to Sting’s fabulous compositions and also serve the story being told onstage. My hope is that when people come to see this show they will feel an even deeper connection to these songs because of how they’re being presented.     

Did you have prior familiarity with all the songs in this show?

One called “Inshallah” was new to me. It’s from Sting’s 2016 album “57th and 9th.” It’s a very emotional song where he sings about refugees arriving in Europe from the Middle East. We isolated tracks from “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” to use with it and created a powerful moment in the show.

You’ve been associated with many high-profile projects, but “Hamilton” may be the most enduring. Has being a Tony winner for a show like that changed your life?

It gives you street cred and it gets certain artists to pay attention to you. If Sting hadn’t come to see “Hamilton,” he might never have thought about me for “Message in a Bottle.” But when all is said and done, you still have to do the work. My passion for detail and love for what I do will always be the most important factors in whatever success I may have.

Photo caption: The cast of the North American tour of “Message in a Bottle.” Photo by Lynn Theisen. Head shot of Alex Lacamoire by Sweetlips Photography.