Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sting's "The Last Ship" an inspirational evening.

Sometimes an artistic event comes along that surprises, touches and inspires.  Such was the case on New Year’s day when my husband, mother-in-law and I went to see the show The Last Ship. It is the incomparable Sting’s new Broadway show for which he wrote both the lyrics and music.  I am a fan but mostly because of my husband who is a devoted fan having all his music, read his book and genuinely holds Sting in high esteem.  In a weird twist of fate, I lived around the corner from in Holland Park, London when I lived there in the 80’s.  But like I said, although I like him, my connection to him is mostly through my husband Johnny. 

The tickets were a Christmas gift from my mother-in-law and could only be taken advantage of in early January as Sting was doing a limited run.  It worked out, we decided to spend New Year’s Eve in the city with Johnny’s family so on New Year’s Day, we headed into the city for dinner and a show.  I knew very little about the show and was anticipating more of a concert as opposed to a story.  My interest level could be described as upper moderate.  We did not know what to expect and of course were looking forward to seeing Sting and hearing many of his familiar songs but I was unprepared for what followed.

The Last Ship starts a little slow and then the first dance number comes on and I am intrigued by its mood and movement.  The dancers are large, small, thin, heavy and with seemingly no stretch or point but pull off the number beautifully.  The grounded choreography had both a celtic and nautical sensibility with touches of hip hop and modern.  It was conceived and performed  from the heart of both the dancers and the characters.  

As the play continues, Sting’s talent as a composer and lyricist for “shows” is revealed.  Of course, we know his talent for song writing in general but to put together an entire show, using some songs from previous work, and adding in some new showstoppers and have it all hang together as a compelling unit;  it was impressive and moving.  There are a number of new songs from the show, that made it into our singing around the house repertoire.

The man has yet another new career ahead of him.  The New York Times review remarked,  “Rich in atmosphere - I half expected to see sea gulls reeling in the rafter - and buoyed by a seductive score that ranks among the best composed by a rock or pop figure for Broadway.”  I think one can live with that review.  My husband commented that other “pop” inspired shows seemed contrived and to try too hard while The Last Ship  was genuine, heartfelt and organic.

At the end of the show, I turned to Johnny to see his eyes filled with tears.  The whole show brought out his emotions but the father son relationship was the clincher. Although not brought to tears, but close, I was very moved by the show as a spectator and inspired as an artist.

Both Johnny and I felt that the show was a true lesson in choreography.  Steven Hoggett’s choreography did not rely on high kicks, fast turns or pyrotechnics.  It was filled with low, grounded movement that incorporated some tricky rhythms that appeared almost tribal when danced by the performers.  Yes that’s it. It felt like the movement had been in their bodies and culture for years, hence the celtic, nautical quality.  The interesting arm choreography and occasional suspended movement called forth the hip-hop and modern elements of the dance.  The audience was drawn in by the authenticity and commitment of the movement not the difficulty of it.  I found inspiration here for a new piece I am choreographing for Nacre Dance Company.

Go to this show and come away with knowledge of another culture and a wonderful artistic experience. One more thing, it was terrific to witness a mature artist, create yet another new path.  Now I have my own relationship to Sting's artistry.

Diane Lachtrupp Martinez

Read the Times review:

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