Whenever the 17-time Grammy Award-winning pop superstar Sting plays the Chicago area, it's typically in huge venues like Soldier Field or Rosemont's Allstate Arena.
But on Friday, Sting played the comparatively tiny Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place for an exclusive hourlong concert and chat session to promote his forthcoming Broadway musical "The Last Ship," which will make its pre-Broadway world premiere run in Chicago starting June 10 at the Bank of America Theatre.
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The audience of media types and group ticket buyers were treated to Sting performing new songs like "Dead Man's Boots," "What Say You, Meg?" and the musical's title song, also the name of Sting's latest album.
"The songs actually represent the end of a very long drought for me. I haven't written anything for a good eight, maybe 10 years," said Sting, responding to a series of questions posed by Tony Award-winning producer Jeffrey Seller, who hosted the event. "Because my mantra has always been that 'If you don't have anything to say, shut up.'"
Sting found his inspiration for "The Last Ship" from his childhood growing up in Wallsend, England, which was at one time a major shipbuilding city. Instead of writing just a series of three-minute pop songs, Sting said he wanted to write a large-scale narrative to commemorate the vanished community of shipbuilders who were fiercely proud of their work and who lost their identities when the industry shut down.
"As soon as I put pen to paper, these songs started to come out of me like projectile vomiting," joked Sting.
Though Sting has appeared on Broadway as an actor in the 1989 revival of "The Threepenny Opera," this is the first time he's attempted to collaborate on writing a Broadway musical. And he's aware that several other pop stars have crashed and burned in their attempts to tackle Broadway.
But with collaborators like Tony Award-winning playwrights John Logan ("Red") and Brian Yorkey ("Next to Normal") attached to the show, Sting said he felt like he was in good hands. In fact, Sting said his collaborators have forced him to rewrite songs and refashion the musical's antagonist, making him have a "big sulk" when he had to throw out material he liked.
Though Sting is writing the score for "The Last Ship," he won't be appearing in the show. So Seller asked the singer how it will be for him to see other people performing his songs onstage.
"I imagine I'm going to have postpartum depression," Sting joked.