JOE McGANN, the actor best known as Charlie Burrows in the hit Nineties’ sitcom The Upper Hand, is to replace Jimmy Nail as the star of Sting’s Broadway musical, The Last Ship, when it sails into the Festival Theatre later this year.
Although it had been hoped the Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Spender star would reprise the role he created and played on Broadway, a statement from the show’s producer Karl Sydow revealed the change in plan.
He said, “After protracted negotiations carried out in good faith we regret to announce the production’s offer of employment to Jimmy Nail has been withdrawn. All at The Last Ship thank him for his generosity and enormous contribution during what has been an eight year journey.”
Nail, who was tipped to return to the role of Jackie White, added: “I was very much looking forward to appearing in Sting’s The Last Ship. Sadly that’s not to be. To anyone who has purchased a ticket, please, go see the show and give this vessel the launch it so deserves. You’ll hear some of the finest musical works ever composed for the stage.”
Instead, McGann, one the famous four acting brothers (Paul was Doctor Who; Mark was Marcus Bannerman in The Grand; and Stephen is currently starring in Call The Midwife as Dr Turner) will take over the role alongside Charlie Hardwick, best known as Val Pollard in Emmerdale, as Jackie’s wife Peggy.
They will be joined by former Corrie star Richard Fleeshman as Gideon Fletcher and Frances McNamee as Meg Dawson.
The Last Ship, initially inspired by Sting’s 1991 album The Soul Cages and his own childhood experiences, tells the story of a community amid the demise of the shipbuilding industry with the closure of the local Swan Hunter shipyard.
When sailor Gideon Fletcher returns home after 17 years at sea, tensions between past and future flare in both his family and his town.
The local shipyard is closing and no-one knows what will come next, only that a half-built ship towers over the terraces.
With the engine fired and pistons in motion, picket lines are drawn as foreman Jackie White and his wife Peggy fight to hold their community together in the face of the gathering storm.
The new production, which boasts a Tony-nominated score and lyrics by Sting, will be directed by Edinburgh-born Lorne Campbell, artistic director of coproducers Northern Stage.
Announcing the cast he said, “I am delighted to be welcoming Joe McGann, Charlie Hardwick, Richard Fleeshman, Frances McNamee and the rest of the company to Northern Stage for The Last Ship.
“Alongside some wonderful old friends of the company, we welcome some remarkable new performers from across the UK.
“We are all hugely excited to move into rehearsal and to bring this incredible score and epic story to audiences across the UK and Ireland.”
The Last Ship opens at The Festival Theatre on Monday 11 June and runs until Saturday 16 June.