Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.
Los Angeles theatre, much like the LA dining scene, has always fought an uphill battle against one geographical truth: It’s not New York City. While this could hardly be construed as a negative thing—particularly in the depths of February when New York City sees unrelenting rain and LA is an ever-pleasant 70 degrees—the dramatic arts on the West Coast feel like they have something to prove. And as a result, the theatrical talent and production value of shows that come to theatres like the Ahmanson in downtown Los Angeles or the Pantages in Hollywood tend to be nothing short of amazing.
This 2019 to 2020 theatrical season, Amex Card Members (CMs) have exclusive access to some of the best performance events coming to Los Angeles. Amex established a partnership with Center Theatre Group currently running for their 2019 to 2020 production season. Amex Card Members have exclusive ticket access to every production at all three of Center Theatre Group’s venues: the Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles and Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.
That exclusive ticketing access not only includes presale and preferred seating—for Gold, Platinum, and Centurion Amex Card Members—it grants access to Card Member Performances.
Those Card Member Performances are how I ended up 30 feet (well, third row) from Sting as he performed an unplugged rendition of “Roxanne” and “Fields of Gold” to an audience of about 400 people at the Ahmanson Theatre.
The Ahmanson hosted the first stop on the North American tour of Sting’s “The Last Ship” musical. The Los Angeles run of “The Last Ship” went from mid-January to February 14, 2020. From LA, The Last Ship tour continues to San Francisco and Washington D.C., among other U.S. cities.
As a musical, “The Last Ship” is just shy of being autobiographical. Sting grew up in the shipyard town of Newcastle, and composed an original score for the musical detailing life in his home city. The Tony-nominated musical is helmed by Sting, who thinks of it as “repaying a debt to the community that raised me—that created me—and [that] gave me the engine of my ambition.”
The musical follows the main characters and town ensemble as the Newcastle-based shipping industry effectively crumbles, leaving many residents out of work. “I’d been brought up in a very strong community with an identity that was completely wrapped up in building giant ships, and so the community was very proud of what they did,” says Sting.
“When that was taken away, the town was destroyed in every way. And this is something that’s happening all over the West. When industries close down, communities are bereft.”
To Sting’s point, this theme of disrupted working culture is relatable in a broader sense. And that’s just one of the reasons the raw energy of this show is so tangible; The original score by Sting was Tony-nominated. Beyond that, the production value that brings Sting’s hometown to life makes the story bracingly real to the audience. “It’s something you haven’t seen in the theatre before,” Sting concludes.
The show was enough to sell any New York Broadway loyalist on the true value of West Coast theatre. And that’s before Sting’s unplugged, solo set, solely open to Amex Card Members. Immediately following the show, Sting gave a 20-minute show for American Express Card Members, performing four songs and talking us through the significance of each one. The whole performance gave off serious “Springsteen on Broadway” vibes. To hear Sting describe the impetus for iconic hits first hand and then perform the stripped-down, unplugged version on his guitar was, as Center Theater Group’s director of marketing Deborah Warren put it, a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for those in attendance.”
Warren says that curating these opportunities for their audience is one of the great privileges of working alongside Amex. “It allows us to connect Card Members with incredible and exclusive events on our stages and at our theatres,” she raves.
To get in on the Card Member benefits unique to the Center Theatre Group this season, learn more about their upcoming programming here. And find out what other Amex Card Member benefits are available to you—from Fine Hotels & Resorts special offers to Global Dining Collection partnerships—here.