Sting, center, harmonizes nicely with the cast of “The Last Ship,” onstage at the Golden Gate Theatre through March 22. (Courtesy Matthew Murphy)

Sting builds tuneful ‘Last Ship’

Vivid score, great singers buoy pop star’s musical

It’s fun to see a bona fide rock star onstage in a musical of his own making.

Sting’s in town at the Golden Gate Theatre, co-starring in a new version of “The Last Ship” that’s been refreshed since a short-lived 2014 run in New York.

Many of the show’s tunes are on Sting’s 2013 album of the same name, inspired by memories of the shipbuilding town where he grew up. A few are from his 1991 solo album “The Soul Cages.”

All are terrific, performed by a uniformly excellent cast providing perfect harmony and emotional resonance to the satisfying, diverse folk-rock score.

The new book by director Lorne Campbell (replacing the original by John Logan and Brian Yorkey) isn’t the most complex or cogent. But it does supply just enough structure, plot and characterization to support Sting’s great songs.

Set in 1986 in Wallsend, North East England, “The Last Ship” describes the demise of the local industry, as changing economics render the vessel being built as unsellable. Bigwigs inform longtime workers they’ll be replacing shipbuilding jobs with work breaking down the boat for scrap, but the folks — including shipyard foreman Jackie (Sting), his wife Peggy (Jackie Morrison) and builders Adrian (Marc Akinfolarian), Billy (Joe Caffrey) and Davey (Matt Corner) — don’t take too well to the news.

Meanwhile, Gideon (Oliver Savile), who fled his father, and the town, for a life at sea, has returned after 16 years to reunite with his sweetheart Meg (Frances McNamee) and meet the yearning daughter Ellen (Sophie Reid) he never knew.

At the outset, the storyline’s a tad murky and the English accents a touch difficult to understand. And the finale somehow manages to be predictable and fantastical at the same time, though it’s cool seeing that women have a stake and role in the outcome.

The fairly simple set is serviceable, some projections add appeal, but the absence of an actual ship is noticeable.

In the end, though, Sting’s compelling score (rousing anthems, tender ballads, soft-shoe ditties, step-dancing reels, soulful belters and pop rock) played by a skilled band (on melodeon, percussion, bass, guitar and violin) led by keyboardist Richard John make for a see-worthy experience.

REVIEW

The Last Ship

Presented by Broadway SF

Where: Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F.

When: 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; closes March 22

Tickets: $70 to $275

Contact: (888) 746-1799, broadwaysf.com

Theater

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