Sting’s stage musical The Last Ship has sailed into contention for America’s prestigious Tony Awards after the songs were given exclusive concert performances on Tyneside at the weekend.
The show, inspired by Sting’s memories of growing up in Wallsend, is in contention in two categories – Best Original Score, for Sting’s music and lyrics, and Best Orchestrations, for music director Rob Mathes who was on stage with Sting and his band at Sage Gateshead on Friday and Saturday.
Back in New York last night after a hectic few days in the North East, Sting said: “I’m a little tired but the news this morning bucked me up.”
The Tony Awards, named in honour of American actress Antoinette Perry, are presented annually to award excellence and achievement on New York’s Broadway stage.
Sting joined the acting cast of The Last Ship to boost ticket sales in the weeks before it closed on Broadway but he said: “I don’t need vindication.
“The whole experience has been a joy from start to finish.
“I had no experience of this and so no expectations so it’s all grand. I didn’t need this kind of encouragement but it is nice – and my brilliant arranger got a nomination too which makes me happy.”
Sting said he hadn’t seen any of the other nominated shows.
“I’ve been on tour so haven’t had a chance to see the opposition but they’re a pretty illustrious bunch so I’m happy to be included among them.”
The voyage of The Last Ship has been a long one, beginning with Sting’s idea for a show based on his memories of Wallsend and the big ships that would get built seemingly at the end of his street and then be launched onto the Tyne, often never to return.
A workshop performance took place at Live Theatre in Newcastle in 2012 and the American funded show then opened on Broadway last year after an initial run in Chicago.
The songs from the show were released on an album, also called The Last Ship, which was released in the autumn of 2013 ahead of the show.
Despite positive reviews in the American press, the stage show closed in January, earlier than had been hoped.
Sting replaced Jimmy Nail in the role of shipyard foreman Jackie White, boosting ticket sales in the last few weeks, but was contracted to tour with Paul Simon so could only commit for a limited time.
But his passion for the project was evident on Friday and Saturday when he and other musicians involved in the musical, from America and the North East, gave three concerts at Sage Gateshead in aid of the venue’s 10th Birthday Appeal, which is aiming to raise £6m before the end of June.
Sting said: “It was very enjoyable but also really intense. We put in a lot of hours of rehearsal, particularly around the double shows on the Saturday, but we were all determined to bring the songs emotionally to life.
“It was really good to bring them home but I did get a bit choked up. I found it quite difficult to sing, especially The Last Ship.”
On Friday afternoon schoolchildren from Newcastle and Gateshead joined Sting and the band in singing that song and a few others.
Still moved by the occasion Sting said: “It was an extraordinary experience seeing all those little faces and hearing the purity of the voices.
“This has all been unmitigated joy from beginning to end.”
Sting said he was due to fly to San Francisco on Wednesday as another long tour looms.
In Gateshead last week he hinted that The Last Ship may not have completed its final journey, with new productions due to open in Scandinavia and Salt Lake City.
This year’s Tony Awards winners, with a host of British theatrical talent represented, will be announced in a New York ceremony on June 7