Sting made an unexpected return to performance this week when he stepped in at the last moment to replace a sick cast member in his musical The Last Ship in his home city of Newcastle, England.

The BBC reports that the former Police frontman apparently sang “Underground River” at Northern Stage, the same venue where he started his career as a bassist in the orchestra pit back in the '70s. The song is normally delivered by Joe Caffrey, who plays lead character Billy Thompson. Caffrey was said to have “lost his voice” ahead of the March 19 show; Michael Blair played Billy for the rest of the performance.

“We spent all afternoon working hard to make sure the show went ahead,” said director Lorne Campbell, “and I’m pleased to say the brilliant Michael Blair stepped in to perform the role of Billy. Plus, audiences may have spotted a familiar face as Sting took to the stage to sing ‘Underground River.’”

“I didn’t wake up in the morning expecting I would be performing on the stage in the evening,” Sting reported. “But when one of the cast goes down, it’s all hands on deck.”

The Last Ship was released as an album in 2013, but had always been planned for the theater. It tells the story of shipyard closures in the industrial area of Wallsend, where Sting grew up. The show opened on Broadway the following year but suffered slow ticket sales. Although the situation improved when Sting joined the cast, The Last Ship closed in January 2015. The Newcastle production, with a new and revised plot, opened on March 12.

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