Sting Has Big Plans for His 'Evolving' Musical

Frank Ockenfels

As he brings out an album of songs he's composed for his musical "The Last Ship," Sting says plans are full speed ahead for a late spring 2014 opening in Chicago and Broadway premiere in the fall.

"The play itself will come out next year," Sting promises Billboard. "We're still working on it, but it's pretty much done. It's an evolving thing; you find that you need a different kid of song or a character suddenly doing something different, so you have to change tact. And I've learned that even a good song doesn't guarantee that it will be included because unless it's moving the narrative forward they can't use the song. There's no time to hang fire while a song happens; the story has to be moved forward. It's fun, even though it's painful at times."

Sting says "The Last Ship," which comes out Sept. 24, includes songs that will be part of the final production as well as those that didn't make the cut. 

"There's too much material, and I thought (the album) was a nice way of keeping the other songs that won't be used," he explains. "It's kind of the raw material from which the musical is being cut. I think it tells the same story but it's a much bigger kind of umbrella. I wouldn't have finished the musical without having done all this work." 

Some older songs from Sting's catalog, including "All This Time," "The Soul Cages" and "When We Dance," are also slated to be part of the show.

The album features a diverse corps of players and guests, including longtime Sting cohort Jo Lawry, British singer and actor Jimmy Nail -- who's coming out of retirement to be part of the stage cast -- and AC/DC singer Brian Johnson, who's part of two tracks on the Deluxe Edition of the album. 

"Brian is from my hometown (Benton, Newcastle upon Tyne), and he's actually a very, very thoughtful man -- maybe I'm giving secrets away there," Sting says. "He's very funny but a very thoughtful man, and playing a shipyard worker is ideal for him. I love Brian's voice; it's an incredible, unique voice in rock 'n' roll, and getting him to sing comedy songs was perfect. And he was great, a great sport."

Sting will present the songs from "The Last Ship" during a 10-night run starting Sept. 24 at the Anspacher Theater in New York City, and for a Nov. 16 date at Austin City Limits Live at the Moody Theater in Texas. Then, he says, it's back to hammering the musical into finished shape for its June 10-July 13 run at the Bank of America Theatre in Chicago. 

"It's probably the most difficult thing I've ever done in terms of creativity because there's so many moving parts," Sting says. "It's been my work for the last three years. It's work I'm very, very proud of."