Taking the stage at Radio City Music Hall, Sting performed the title song of his upcoming Broadway play The Last Ship at the 68th Annual Tony Awards ceremony. The singer-songwriter launched into the tune lit by a single spotlight and strumming an acoustic guitar as, in a thick Northern accent, he recounts a man trying to make a “mountain of steel [that] makes its way to the West.” A five-piece band and a choir gradually fall in behind him, as the shanty-like song builds to rousing crescendo and a sketch of a large vintage steamer appears on a screen behind him.
The show was inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up near shipyards in northeast England. It tells the story of a man who returns to his shipbuilding hometown in the 1980s to find the shipyards in steep decline and the woman he loves engaged to another man.
The Last Ship, which was co-written by playwrights John Logan and Brian Yorkey, marks Sting’s debut as a Broadway composer, and he drew inspiration from the musical theater canon as well as regional folk music. “I wanted the music to reflect the traditional music of the northeast of England where I grew up, as well as tipping my hat to the great music of the theatrical tradition – Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Brecht and Weill,” Sting told Rolling Stone.
Last fall, Sting released songs from the project as an album that featured vocals from AC/DC’s Brian Johnson and British actor-singer Jimmy Nail. He also gave the material a live airing over a 10-night run at New York’s Public Theater this past September. The full theatrical show makes its official stage debut at Chicago’s Bank of America Theatre on June 10th before heading to Broadway for an opening at the Neil Simon Theatre on October 26th.