Producer Jeffrey Seller said Tuesday that the Grammy Award-winning songwriter’s Broadway musical “The Last Ship” will close when his stint in the show ends Jan. 24 at the Neil Simon Theatre.
Sting, who wrote the songs, jumped into the musical in early December, playing a shipyard foreman that had been portrayed by Jimmy Nail. While that improved sales, they didn’t skyrocket and the future looked bleak without him.
“We made the musical we wanted to make and we’re fiercely proud of it,” Seller said. “It’s been spectacular that Sting could be in it for its final weeks because now we go out with some degree of triumph. Not what I wanted. But some degree of triumph.”
“The Last Ship” is a semiautobiographical story about a prodigal son who returns to his northern England shipbuilding town to reclaim the girl he abandoned when he fled years before. He finds the workers are now unemployed and entertaining the idea of building one last boat to show off their skill and pride.
The $15 million show has struggled at the box office, attributable in part to its challenging topic and mixed reviews. Seller said advance sales after Sting leaves to tour with Paul Simon were not enough to sustain the show: “After he leaves, the losses would be too great.”
Sting, born Gordon Sumner, drew on his childhood, growing up in Newcastle. He was last onstage on Broadway in the 1989 revival of “The Threepenny Opera.”
On the eve of joining the cast onstage, the singer acknowledged his show faced tough odds: “This was never going to be easy. I didn’t anticipate a shoo-in at all. I expected a battle because I want to succeed against the odds.”
Seller on Tuesday paid tribute to Sting for jumping aboard the listing ship. “I am forever in admiration for him for the ferocity of his passion and his work ethic,” he said. “He didn’t just write it. He lives what he wrote.”
“The Last Ship” was written by Pulitzer Prize- and Tony-winning lyricist Brian Yorkey (“Next to Normal”) and Tony winner John Logan (“Red”), while Tony winner Joe Mantello (“Wicked”) directed. When it closes, it will have played 29 previews and 105 regular performances.
“I believe the show is a valuable, beautiful, remarkable piece of art,” Seller said. “And I believe it can last.” He noted that “Porgy and Bess” opened at the same theater – then the Alvin Theatre – in 1935 and also lasted just a few months. “It was a flop. Do you remember any other shows from that season?”
Other rock stars have joined shows they helped create, including Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong, who made several onstage visits to his show “American Idiot.” But others – including Trey Anastasio from Phish – chose to stay offstage even after their shows sprung leaks.
Other rock and pop stars who have attempted to write musicals include Cyndi Lauper, Sheryl Crow, John Mellencamp, Sarah McLachlan, Alanis Morissette, Dave Stewart, Tori Amos, Edie Brickell, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim. For every Elton John, who found amazing success with “The Lion King,” there is U2’s Bono and The Edge, who were battered by “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark.”