TIME Theater

Review: The Elephant Man: Bradley Cooper’s Broadway Freak Show

From left: Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper and Patricia Clarkson during the Broadway Opening Night Performance Curtain Call for 'The Elephant Man' on Dec. 7, 2014 in New York City.
From left: Anthony Heald, Bradley Cooper and Patricia Clarkson during the Broadway Opening Night Performance Curtain Call for 'The Elephant Man' on Dec. 7, 2014 in New York City. Walter McBride—Getty Images/WireImage

In The Elephant Man, People's Sexiest Man Alive has found an ideal stage vehicle

Anyone attending the new Broadway revival of The Elephant Man might get the idea that, for most theatergoers, the real show doesn’t begin until after the final curtain. That’s when an excited crowd of fans gathers outside the stage door, waiting for star Bradley Cooper to make his appearance.

I had, by chance, a front row seat for the post-show frenzy after one recent performance —at one of the tables in Junior’s, the deli restaurant right next door to the Booth Theater. What amazed me wasn’t just the press of flesh and flashbulbs outside, waiting for the hunky Hollywood star to emerge. It was the crowd that had gathered inside the restaurant: patrons interrupting their corned beef sandwiches to gawk through the windows and point their cellphones — taking photos of the crowd taking photos of the star who was all but invisible behind the horde of autograph-seeking fans.

It seemed a fitting coda for a year in which Broadway’s parade of star power hit an all-time peak. Neil Patrick Harris, Bryan Cranston, Michael Cera, Hugh Jackman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and (most recently, as the new Sally Bowles in Cabaret) Emma Stone were just some of the TV and movie stars who made their debuts, or high-profile returns, on Broadway this year. In most cases, they were headlining revivals — and not always of plays that needed reviving. This is the third Broadway production of The Elephant Man (the last was in 2002), and it surely wouldn’t be back if Bradley Cooper — People’s former Sexiest Man Alive, star of Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and The Hangover films — didn’t think it would be a good career move.

It’s easy to see why. In the role of John Merrick, the hideously deformed man who was transformed from a circus freak into the toast of Victorian London, Cooper has a near-perfect, high-impact showcase in which to demonstrate his stage chops. The main gimmick of Bernard Pomerance’s 1979 fact-based drama is that the grotesque title character is portrayed by a perfectly normal-looking actor, without makeup or prosthetics, who simply manipulates his body and voice to simulate the deformities that revolt (and later fascinate) all who meet him.

Cooper’s sheer physical gorgeousness makes the transformation a surefire crowd pleaser. Watch him twist his face and contort his buffed-up body into a lopsided hump. Listen to the gurgles and clicking sounds as he gasps out his words in a strangled, high-pitched wail. The standing ovation is assured; a Tony nomination nearly so.

I don’t mean to denigrate Cooper’s performance, which is impressive and often touching. So is Pomerance’s play, with its canny mixture of historical drama, moral inquiry and social satire. Merrick is rescued from his freak-show horrors by the kindly Dr. Frederick Treves and introduced to a patronizing gallery of Victorian swells, who simply transfer the freak show to well-appointed drawing rooms. Scott Elliott’s production junks the Brechtian intertitles in Pomerance’s script, which added a nice layer of irony to the proceedings, and as a result the play becomes a little more of a heart-tugger than it probably ought to be. But tug at the heart it does.

Cooper is helped quite a bit by an excellent supporting cast, especially Alessandro Nivola, who neatly walks the line between sympathy and smugness as the doctor, and Patricia Clarkson, a bit brittle but engaging as the actress who becomes Merrick’s friend and patron. It is an intelligent, thought-provoking, briskly paced evening of theater, over in a surprisingly fast two hours. Plenty of time left to grab your cellphone, join the stage-door scrum — and still have time for slice of Junior’s cheesecake.

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Brando Takes Broadway: LIFE on the Set of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ in 1947

On the anniversary of the Broadway premier of 'A Streetcar Named Desire,' LIFE presents photos from rehearsals for that famous production

Along with Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night and a few other notable modern works, Tennessee Williams’ 1947 masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire, helped shape the look and feel of American drama for decades to come. But nothing that occurred during the play’s original Broadway run eclipsed the emergence of a young Marlon Brando as a major creative force and a star to be reckoned with. Here, on the anniversary of the play’s Dec. 3, 1947, Broadway premiere, LIFE.com presents photos — some of which never ran in LIFE — made during rehearsals by photographer Eliot Elisofon.

Directed by Elia Kazan and starring Brando, Jessica Tandy, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden, the 1947 production remains a touchstone in American drama, winning both the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics’ Circle award for the year’s best play, as well as a Best Actress Tony for Tandy for her seminal performance as the unstable, alcoholic, melodramatic Southern belle, Blanche DuBois. Despite all the accolades it earned, however, the 24-year Brando’s galvanizing turn as Stanley Kowalski — in both the play and in Kazan’s 1951 film adaptation — was what really seared the production into the pop-culture consciousness.

Gritty, sensual, violent and bleak, Williams’ great play remains one of a handful of utterly indispensable 20th-century American dramatic works, while the sensual ferocity of Brando’s Stanley can still shock, seven decades after he first unleashed the character on a rapt theatergoing public.

TIME Theater

An Unseen Arthur Miller Play Will Debut in 2015

Miller wrote it as a movie, but the country's political climate kept it from happening

A previously unseen play from the late Pulitzer-winning playwright Arthur Miller will debut next year.

Miller, who passed away in 2005, wrote The Hook originally as a movie, but it never came to fruition after Hollywood executives pushed Miller to make communists the villains, the BBC reports. One of Miller’s best-known plays, The Crucible, allegorically criticizes the red scare during the years of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activitees Committee, framed during the 17th century Salem witch trials.

The Hook is set in 1950s New York and follows a dockworker who encounters corruption.

“Miller was a man of extraordinary integrity,” director James Dacre said. “He was absolutely determined to depict the work as it was rather as other people demanded he describe it.”

It will premiere at the Royal & Derngate theater in Northampton, England, in June of 2015. Then, it will move to the Everyman Theater in Liverpool in July.

[BBC]

TIME Theater

Sting Joins the Cast of His Struggling Broadway Musical

Sting
Sting performs at the 2014 ASCAP Centennial Awards, benefiting the ASCAP Foundation and its music education, talent development and humanitarian activities, at the Waldorf-Astoria on Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, in New York. Stephen Chernin—Stephen Chernin/Invision/AP

Producers hope his appearance in The Last Ship will boost ticket sales

Sting will take the leading role of the musical The Last Ship between Dec. 9 and Jan. 10 in a bid to boost failing ticket sales.

The show, for which Sting wrote both music and lyrics, has been losing $75,000 a week since it premiered on Sept. 29 and risks having its Broadway run cut short, reports the New York Times.

“I’ve been working on this show for five years and been at every rehearsal, every performance, so it’s not like I’ve flown in from Planet Rock Star to save the day,” Sting said in an interview Sunday.

The lead producer of The Last Ship, Jeffrey Seller, hopes that Sting’s appearance will boost award chances.

“Our goal is to win the Tony” for best musical, he said.

Sting is expected to make his official announcement at a Monday appearance on NBC’s Today show.

[NYT]

TIME Theater

John Cameron Mitchell to Reprise Hedwig Role on Broadway

John Cameron Mitchell
John Cameron Mitchell Charles Sykes—Invision/AP

The actor and writer created Hedwig in 1998 and went on to direct and star in a 2001 film aversion

Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells and Michael C. Hall have all taken a crack at the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, but now the man who first brought its titular character to life is taking over.

Next year, John Cameron Mitchell will reprise the role he co-created in 1998, when Hedwig made its debut at the Jane Street Theater. The musical follows a transgender frontwoman of an East Germany rock band.

Mitchell begins an eight-week run at Broadway’s Belasco Theatre on Jan. 21. The 51-year-old told the New York Times that he would be working with a trainer and adjusting the choreography to accommodate his age.

“15 years ago she kicked my butt so hard that I quit acting,” Mitchell said in a statement. “But like an expertly face-lifted ex-wife, she’s lured me back.”

Mitchell also starred in the 2001 film adaptation of the play, which he directed himself.

TIME Theater

Review: Musical Triplets: The Band Wagon Times Three

The cast of 'The Band Wagon' during the Curtain Call on Nov. 9, 2014 in New York City.
The cast of 'The Band Wagon' during the Curtain Call on Nov. 9, 2014 in New York City. Walter McBride—Getty Images

First a breakthrough Broadway revue in 1931, then a legendary 1953 MGM musical, the grand old show gets a spiffy makeover in the latest Encores! revival

“This show is silly,” says the snooty choreographer to his colleagues as they prepare a new musical. “It won’t mean anything to anybody in 50 years.” The audience at City Center Encores! a knowing giggle. The show, The Band Wagon, was a popular and critical success when it opened as a Broadway revue in 1931, with Fred Astaire and his sister Adele in the cast, and achieved legendary status when reworked into the 1953 MGM movie, again starring Fred. Now, more than 80 or 60 years later, it’s back in New York for an 11-day run (ending Sunday), with the implicit hope of transferring to Broadway.

The new team has a superb pedigree. Broadway’s leading baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell, in the Astaire role, is supported by Aussie star Tony Sheldon (The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert), Laura Osnes from Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella and ace stage and TV comics Tracey Ullman and Michael McKean. Kathleen Marshall, the director-choreographer, has brought polish and pizzazz to many a venerable musical, from Anything Goes and The Pajama Game to Wonderful Town, the 1953 show by Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Leonard Bernstein that she spiffily revived in 2003 here at City Center.

Encores! itself is a New York musical treasure, having staged concert version of classic shows for 21 seasons. One of these, Chicago, made it to Broadway in 1996 and celebrated its 18th birthday Nov. 14th.

So how it the new show? A fine night at the theater, with Marshall’s bright staging, some clever lines in the Douglas Carter Beane book, a starry cast eager to please, pearly arrangements for Todd Ellison’s 12-piece orchestra and hummable melodies galore (“Dancing in the Dark,” “By Myself,” “New Sun in the Sky,” “Shine on My Shoes”) in the score by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz. If this revival glides rather than soaring, that’s due not to the performers but to a curious misunderstanding of the source material: that The Band Wagon — intended in both its earlier incarnations as a showcase for the elegant, swellegant Astaire, the most revered dancer of the 20th century — should mostly just stand around and sing. If Arthur Freed, the producer of The Band Wagon at MGM, had seen this version, he would have ordered it and its leading man to get up and dance.

In his reign as MGM’s musical maestro, from The Wizard of Oz in 1939 through Gigi in 1958, Freed occasionally dipped into the trunks of famous songwriters and turned their legacy of hits into either musical bio-pics — Words and Music (Mickey Rooney as Lorenz Hart and Tom Drake as Richard Rodgers) and Three Little Words (with Astaire as Bert Kalmar and Red Skelton as Harry Ruby) — or new scenarios with old songs, such as Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade. Freed hit the jackpot in 1952 when he dusted off the tunes he had written with Herb Nacio Brown in the first years of talking pictures. He handed the job to ace scripters Comden and Green, let star Gene Kelly direct it with Stanley Donen and, voilà!, Singin’ in the Rain, widely and wisely considered the best original musical in Hollywood history.

Like Freed, Dietz worked at MGM; he was the studio’s chief publicist, creating the Leo the Lion mascot and the “Ars Gratia Artis” motto. On the side he wrote Broadway revues with Schwartz, a lawyer with enough spare time to put music to Dietz’s words in the scores of 10 Broadway shows from 1930 to 1937. These guys wrote fast: hired to provide the songs for a radio musical-comedy series called The Gibson Family, they composed 94 numbers in 39 weeks. In his memoir, Dancing in the Dark, Dietz recalls, “We weren’t touchy about criticism. I would say, ‘The tune stinks.’ He would say, ‘The lyric is lousy.’ We aimed to please each other. We figured that if we succeeded, there were a lot of people like us.”

Given the Dietz-and-Schwartz catalogue to shape into a Band Wagon movie, Comden and Green applied the same technique they’d used for Singin’ in the Rain: a backstage musical, but set in the theater instead of in 1920s Hollywood. Aging movie star Tony Hunter (Astaire) has returned to New York to get his mojo back by starring in a Broadway show. His old writing pals Lester and Lily Martin (Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray) provide him with a cute script and good songs. But renowned director Jeffrey Cordova (Jack Buchanan) sees the production as a modern Faust, solemn as a Teutonic funeral pyre, and hires ballet master Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) as choreographer, with Paul’s girlfriend Gabrielle Gerard (Cyd Charisse) as the leading lady.

When high art clashes with showbiz in a musical comedy, guess which wins? Tony and Gaby fall in love, Jeff gets into the populist spirit, and at the end everyone sings “That’s Entertainment,” a perennial hit that that Dietz and Schwartz wrote specially for the movie — in 30 mins. Like we said, fast.

As directed, ever so sumptuously, by Vincente Minnelli, The Band Wagon doesn’t reach the Singin’ in the Rain stratosphere. In part, that’s because the movie was satirizing something that didn’t exist: the takeover of musical comedy by pretentious directors and choreographers.

On a helpful, if madly gushing, Band Wagon commentary track with Minnelli’s daughter Liza, show-tune historian Michael Feinstein says that Comden and Green based the Cordova character on José Ferrer, who in the late ’40s stoked the envy and animosity of old-fashioned Broadway types when he filled the actor-director-producer boy-genius role taken by Orson Welles a decade before. But Ferrer didn’t directed a Broadway musical (1958’s Oh Captain!) until four years after The Band Wagon was released. There’s no reason to make fun of a serious director except from the need to build some bogus conflict: Jeff is the guy who gets in Tony’s way, then gets out of it.

As for the tradition of dance directors infusing ballet into musical comedy, that had been a staple since the mid-1930s, when George Balanchine worked with Rodgers and Hart on four ’30s musicals, including Babes in Arms and On Your Toes. Another, younger genius, Jerome Robbins, choreographed such musical comedies as Billion Dollar Baby, High Button Shoes, Berlin’s Call Me Madam and the Comden-Green-Bernstein On the Town, proving an expert pleasure giver whether his dancers were sporting tap shoes or pointe shoes.

The most sensational early merger of ballet and Broadway was a piece that choreographer Albertina Rasch devised for her fellow Austrian, Tilly Losch, who wore long phosphorescent gloves in front of a large mirror on a pitch-black stage so that the audience saw only Losch’s arms in graceful motion. The song: “Dancing in the Dark.” The show: The Band Wagon.

O.K., so the 1953 story reeks a bit of anti-intellectualism. But the script percolates with attractive opposites: the all-American Tony vs. veddy British Jeff, the sour Lester vs. the perky Lily and, at its romantic center, the veteran hoofer Tony vs. the young ballerina Gaby. (When they made the movie Astaire was 53, Charisse 31.) Once the plot entanglements are unraveled, The Band Wagon becomes what the 1931 show was: a revue, a cascade of top songs brilliantly staged and performed.

The “Triplets” number presents three homicidal siblings (Astaire, Fabray and Buchanan in baby clothes) wishing they “had a gun / A wittle gun / It would be fun to kill the other two and be only one.” And “That’s Entertainment” has become a showbiz anthem, including the immortal couplet that reprises the plot of Hamlet in a dozen succinct words: “Where the ghost and the prince meet / And everyone ends in mincemeat.”

With Astaire as its star, this song-and-dance movie has lots of both. Michael Kidd, who came to MGM after choreographing the Broadway hits Finian’s Rainbow and Guys and Dolls, fashioned two Astaire solos — the moody “By Myself” at a train station and the exuberant “Shine on My Shoes” in a penny arcade — and the 12-min. “Girl Hunt Ballet,” a parody of Mickey Spillane’s tough-guy crime novels that’s aswirl in pulp poetry, with Astaire as a gum-chewing gumshoe and Charisse as the fatal dame with fabulous gams. Most gorgeous is “Dancing in the Dark,” in which Tony and Gaby, heretofore adversaries, take a walk through Central Park that slowly morphs into a pas de deux: courtship made palpable, poignant and rapturous.

In the new Encores! version, Tony (Mitchell) is still the fading movie star attempting a comeback on Broadway — like the Michael Keaton character in Birdman — but instead of a superhero legacy Tony’s fame came from musicals. (Pop quiz: Name a top star of the Hollywood musicals they don’t make any more.) Again, Lily and Lester (Ullman and McKean) have an idea for a fun show that Jeff (Sheldon) wants to turn into a modern Faust; and the choreographer (Michael Berresse) insists that his ballerina girlfriend (Osnes) take the female lead. For second-act wrinkles, Beane has added a one-way romance of Lily for Tony; it doesn’t resonate, but it allows Ullman to sing the lovely ballad “Sweet Music.”

This version restores some of the saucier Dietz lyrics that the 1953 film bowdlerized. In “I Guess I’ll Have to Change My Plan,” Tony sings the original “Why did I buy those blue pajamas / Before the big affair began?” And the drinking song “I Love Louisa” restores the couplet, “Ach, when I choose ‘em / I love a great big boosom!” Beane has also written a elaborate number in which Lily pitches the script and the major songs to Tony and Jeff — a marvelous turn for Ullman, who could run away with this show standing still, but has the chops and body English to sell every line and emotion. If The Band Wagon does get to Broadway, she’s a cinch for a shower of awards. Sheldon, a late replacement for Roger Rees, is another bringer of brio. He makes Jeff’s bullheadedness seem almost innocent: an overflow of his zeal to put on a show.

Though this Band Wagon runs about a half-hour longer than the movie, it excises some important elements: the “Girl Hunt Ballet,” the “Dancing in the Dark” pas de deux — indeed, any notion that dance is at the core of the story. Mitchell is a wonderful actor-singer, as he showed on Broadway in The Man of La Mancha and in the 2002 Encores! revival of Carnival opposite a 19-year-old Vassar student named Anne Hathaway. Osnes, who played Margaret in the Randy Newman Faust at City Center this summer, is a winning, charming soprano. What these two aren’t, and were never expected to be, are sublime dancers. So Gaby’s admiring declaration to Tony that “You got me dancing, the thing I love most in my life” is meaningless. Tony might as well be the cowboy star who made Gaby want to ride a horse.

Beane would have to admit that his Band Wagon (which played in a 2008 San Diego version as Dancing in the Dark) is an anachronism even for Broadway. The only performers who parlayed their dance skills to live-theater stardom in the past few decades are Savion Glover — a natural ti play the lead here in an all-black revival of the show — and Tommy Tune. The Jeff Cordova of his day, Tune starred in and directed the 1983 hit My One and Only and, in 1991, The Will Rogers Follies. At 75 he’s still lithe and active: he has workshopped a revival of Astaire’s Top Hat and a Studio 54 musical, Fifty*Four*Forever; and this Thursday he’s doing his one-man show as a Minneapolis fundraiser.

Tune is Fred Astaire as a 6-ft.-6-in. Texan, with the same ability to light up a stage through a down-home personality and electric footwork. If Beane and Marshall want to give one more rethink to a silly show with many pleasures and a few unrealized promises, they know which Tune to call.

TIME

There’s Going to Be a Duck Dynasty Musical

Duck Commander 500
Willie, Phil and Si Robertson of Duck Dynasty take part in pre-race ceremonies for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on April 6, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. Jonathan Ferrey—Getty Images

Break a beard, everyone

The Robertson family of Duck Dynasty fame will soon add a new accolade to their litany of show business accomplishments: stars of a Broadway-style musical.

The reality stars have commissioned a team of Broadway producers to adapt their tale for the stage, although the theatrical rendition of the Robertsons’ life will not actually appear on the Great White Way. Instead, the production of Duck Commander will debut in Sin City, at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas this February, the New York Times reports.

Actors will be cast to play the Robertson family, which skyrocketed to fame thanks to some quirky personalities and inflammatory comments. Last year, family patriarch Phil Robertson was suspended by the Duck Dynasty network A&E after comparing gay relationships to bestiality.

The family reportedly has final say over the script and production, which will be based off the 2012 book The Duck Commander Family by Willie and Korie Robertson. So far they’ve “enjoyed the process.”

[NYT]

TIME Theater

Theater World Catches Fire With New Hunger Games Play

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 Murray Close—Lionsgate

The odds are ever in its favor... to make lots of money

Katniss will soon be making curtain calls, as the Hunger Games book and movie mega-franchise comes to the live stage.

The forthcoming production will be held in “a brand new purpose build theater next to Wembley Stadium in London, UK,” film studio Lionsgate announced Friday.

The Hunger Games play, produced by Broadway producer Robin de Levita, will aim its arrow right at the heart of the franchise’s streak of victories. The original books by Suzanne Collins topped every bestseller list, and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, headed by Oscar-winner Jennifer Lawrence, was the highest grossing film of 2013, with Mockingjay: Part 1 expected to throw a knock-out punch when it hits theaters on Nov. 21.

Lionsgate says the theatrical show will use “state-of-the-art technology” to “provide a uniquely immersive experience for fans.” The studio added that inspiration came from De Levita’s recent experience producing the Dutch musical Soldier of Orange, in which the audience sits in a 360-degree auditorium that rotates from set to set.

TIME Theater

REVIEW: Sting’s The Last Ship Is Rudderless

"The Last Ship" Broadway Opening Night - Arrivals And Curtain Call
Sting with the cast during the Broadway Opening Night Performance Curtain Call for 'The Last Ship' at the Neil Simon Theatre on Oct. 26, 2014 in New York City. Walter McBride—WireImage

Even though his tunes are exceptional, the Broadway version of his song cycle is lost at sea

The Last Ship, the first Broadway musical from rock star Sting, has plenty going for it. The story, about the workers in an English seafaring town who occupy their recently closed shipyard to build one last vessel, has a lot of working-class authenticity and autobiographical cred — based, as it is, on Sting’s own experiences growing up in the northeast England port city of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Sting has written some excellent, evocative songs — many of them delivered by a brawny, foot-stomping baritone chorus, with earthy, less-is-more choreography by the talented Steven Hoggett. The Broadway production, directed by Joe Mantello, is polished and well cast, serious and occasionally stirring.

All that’s missing is the ship.

It’s probably unfair to point out that a stage musical can’t capture the realism of a movie. But The Last Ship is so reminiscent of those British indie films about gritty working-class folks in dreary north-country industrial towns — some of which have been turned into decent musicals (Billy Elliot, The Full Monty) — that you can’t help feeling something is missing. This may be the first Broadway musical that pales in comparison to the movie it wasn’t based on.

The story is a fond tribute to the proud English shipbuilders who were thrown out of work by globalism, Thatcherism and the sheer march of progress. Yet the show doesn’t have much social-political context, nor dramatic tension. The decision to close the shipyard is made at the very start, and the confrontation between management and labor is muted and pretty much forgotten midway through. It’s not even clear just what this quixotic project is meant to accomplish, beyond a symbolic demonstration of the men’s work ethic and skills that are no longer in demand.

On screen, the sight of the ship gradually coming into hulking being would have provided a concrete focus for the drama, or at least a sense of forward motion toward a visible, if ultimately futile, conclusion. Here, the whole project takes place offstage, and no one has come up with a visual metaphor or imaginative staging idea to represent it in theatrical terms.

Instead, the book (by Brian Yorkey and John Logan) fills out the two and a half hours with a boilerplate story about a prodigal son, Gideon (Michael Esper), who returns home after a 15-year absence, the girlfriend (Rachel Tucker) he left behind, and the son (Collin Kelly-Sordelet) she has raised and who turns out, naturally, to be Gideon’s. There’s a standard collection of colorful locals and gruff working men (among them the lean and weathered Jimmy Nail as the foreman who leads the construction project), as well as a kind-hearted, cutely profane parish priest (Fred Applegate) straight from central casting — for some Irish film, apparently.

The show’s uncontrovertible high point is Sting’s vigorous and lyrical score — maybe the best from a major rock artist to come to Broadway. (Bono and The Edge’s songs for Spider-Man, in comparison, sound slick and inconsequential). There are yearning, romantic love ballads; hearty workers’ anthems with echoes of sea chanteys, Irish folk music and The Threepenny Opera;and a touch of Broadway pizzazz, to keep the old folks who predate the Police happy.

Yet the score is not really enhanced by the show surrounding it. A concert version of songs from The Last Ship (including several that were cut from the show) that Sting delivered at New York’s Public Theatre last year is actually more powerful, personal and genuinely moving than the fully staged musical. PBS aired it on Great Performances early this year (http://video.pbs.org/video/2365183664); give a listen to a terrific song cycle that, unfortunately, falls a little short as a Broadway show.

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