Sting's new Broadway play The Last Ship opened this past Sunday. Sting is the most recent '80s rocker to indulge in the big bright lights of Broadway. The last folks to delve into it were U2 with Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark.
The Last Ship wasn't that bad but it wasn't that great either. It was certainly better than the last five shows I've seen. Of course one of those shows was the Broadway version of the movie Rocky so. . .Rocky would make The Last Ship the greatest American musical of our time. I'm not writing today to go into a theatrical discussion but to commend Sting for getting closer to having a legendary artist do something right on Broadway. Billy Joel lent his legendary songs to the musical Movin Out, The Who reconfigured their Tommy Album for a very cool production of Tommy, and Green Day once again lent their already legendary tunes to American Idiot. Paul Simon, U2 and Sting are the only ones that have actually written new material for the stage. In 1998 Paul Simon wrote music and lyrics for The Capeman. It was a disaster and only played 68 performances. In November of 2010 Bono and The Edge (but come on, we'll just call them U2) wrote music and lyrics for Spider-Man Turn Off the Dark. It has become a folklore of legendary disaster on Broadway. Mostly, because all of the U2 songs were horrid. It was quite clear that someone must have come up to U2 and asked them "what do you have left?" because that is what each song feels like. If U2 were actually interested in doing a Broadway show, they may have come to some of the rehearsals or maybe even promoted a new Album with some of the songs from the show. Unfortunately that didn't happen and, almost as if in a comedy movie, when Bono and The Edge finally came to a performance of their own show they sat there with their mouths open as if they were watching "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers. These two numbnuts came to the show after it had been open five months and could not believe their ears. I guess they finally figured out they had done such a subpar job on song writing that they asked the production to be closed down for a month so they could retool. It opened a month later but it was unsaveable at that point. No one was going because this absolutely epic band wrote music and lyrics to a really cool show. They were going because Spider-Man and the Green Goblin fly over your head and that's a lot of fun. U2 completely disassociated themselves with the project and were never heard from again. Until, oh that's right, they tried to force everyone to purchase their album when buying an iPhone 6 last month. No one's falling for that again fellas.
Billy Joe Armstrong, who is absolutely one of my favorites, was completely involved in the Broadway production of American Idiot. Sometimes he would perform with the cast, and after a while, he even started performing as one of the characters in the show. But these were Green Day songs so what did he have to lose? They were proven hits. Sting however has at least gotten a little bit closer to what we want to see if our heroes of rock are going to continue in this direction. Sure he wrote an entire new musical BUT, he also added two classic Sting songs to the show. Brilliant. The new songs are usual Broadway nonsense. They're ok but you don't leave the theatre humming any of the songs, except the Sting song, "All This Time". I was thrilled when I saw that song and "When We Dance" in the program. That was quite the brilliant plan because mostly, why not? Why not combine 2 of your own classic hit songs that completely fit in your show with 12 or so brand new ones? That's a very good blue print for a successful show when someone finally gets it completely right. By getting it completely right I would mean people downloading the album to the show because they want to listen to it on their iPod or maybe even a hit song that's played on old fashioned radio. That definitely does not happen with this show but it's in the right direction. The one downside to putting Sting hits in a show is the actor singing them isn't as good as Sting so then you just want to hear the actual Sting version but, whatcha gonna do. The good thing is that Sting is completely committed to the show. He has been spotted there every night. Sometimes he goes outside and serenades the folks waiting on line with "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic". So, even if The Last Ship isn't "The Best Show," you have to respect the commitment to it unlike the tools that keep saying they're "fighting for the cause" but clearly phoned in a pay day like U2.
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