Sting may be in for a shock when he tries to save his Broadway musical

At $250 a ticket, audiences might want Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber as well as the ageing rock star

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The Independent Online

Greater love hath no man than to star in his own musical. Sting has persuaded his friend, actor Jimmy Nail, to stand down from his role in The Last Ship, the shipbuilding musical currently failing to build an audience on Broadway. The show’s composer who also happens to be a musician with a hefty following in America, will nobly put himself in front of the currently half empty auditorium, in the hope that his reputation as as rock god still has enough currency to fill seats.

It’s a high risk strategy. Certainly, the critics will come again for the notable cast change. But, Sting be warned, they will also be dusting off their record collections and studying both Police and solo back catalogues for suitable quotes in their reviews. “Every breath you take, you’re taking at the wrong time.” “He should be sending out an SOS.” “Do we really need this Englishman in New York?” “Every little thing he does is tragic.”

Well, you get the picture. So, hats off to Sting for bravery. Indeed, it’s tempting to think of what might have happened if other composers had taken to the stage to save their musicals from closure. Viva Forever, the Spice Girls musical, might have lasted a little longer if the Spice Girls themselves had put aside their differences to appear in the thing. And for novelty, if nothing else, who wouldn’t have begged, borrowed or stole for a ticket, to give the musical Stephen Ward another chance, if its composer Andrew Lloyd Webber had announced he would be singing the role of the society osteopath tonight?

To judge from the early reviews, it was not Jimmy Nail or even the shipbuilding subject matter that has put off Broadway audiences, but the undynamic quality of the show’s book. Add to this, of course, the increasingly outrageous Broadway prices, which even make the West End look reasonable. At £200 plus a ticket, audiences might want not just Sting on stage, but Taylor Swift playing a feisty female geordie shipbuilder, and Justin Bieber a cocky union official.

If Sting had insisted that top prices were reduced and there were a good supply of cheap tickets each night, it might have had made as big a difference as his own appearance in the show. But, he should be saluted for the gesture that he is making. Acting in a stage musical, and on Broadway of all places, could prove a more testing and more exposed ordeal even than playing a rock gig in a vast stadium. The closure of the show wouldn’t dent Sting’s fortune overmuch. But it would dent his pride, and cast a shadow over his passion for the project.

There’s no greater proof that he is an artist than the fact that he can’t bear for a cherished project, with links to his own roots, to disappear in ignominy. But he’d have an even greater place in Broadway history, if he took on the ludicrous pricing system that keeps theatre there the province of the rich. Then we’d all be Walking on the Moon. (Once you start, it’s hard to stop). 


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