Theatre Review: “Message in a Bottle” Shines with Power and Empathy

Kevin Taft reviews the surprisingly impressive Message in a Bottle, an exuberant and inventive dance show utilizing the songs of the legendary singer/songwriter Sting.
User Rating: 9

Already a hit in London, Kate Prince’s “Message in a Bottle” is an exuberant and inventive dance show utilizing the songs of the legendary singer/songwriter Sting.

A modern dance show from start to finish, the story, conceived by Lolita Chakrabarti Obe, is a fictional tale about one refugee family dealing with displacement, hardship, and freedom.

The story takes place in an unnamed country right before a civil war breaks out, and the family begins to split apart. The remaining members escape by boat, making a harrowing journey across the sea, only to meet more tragedy that leaves the children of the family alone. They, in turn, are separated and face their own challenges getting access to freedom or being sent back to the country they are so desperate to escape from.

See Also: Theater Review: Ballet Has Never Been More Relatable Than Matthew Bourne’s Stunning “Romeo + Juliet”

The emotional story as we watch and analyze the modern dance interpretation of the unfolding story. What is readily apparent from the moment it begins is the amount of talent onstage and the inventive choreography by Kate Prince.

Whether it is a hazardous boat ride to another land or the three siblings being torn apart in a refugee camp, the staging is mesmerizing. The second act ups the ante here with several standout sequences. One sequence involves one of the siblings finding love with another man, all choreographed to Sting’s “Shape of My Heart.” Another finds a different sibling getting sent back to the country he came from and then navigating a changed world in a sequence that uses “bed” and “nightmare” projections in a jaw-droppingly clever way.

Toward the climax, the three siblings join together in spirit as they dance with their own shadows projected on a screen behind them. The technical prowess of the performers and the video designer (Andrzei Goulding) brought tears to my eyes.

I can’t not mention the power of Sting’s music. Re-recorded, re-arranged (by Grammy and Tony award winner Alex Lacamoire (Hamilton), and with additional vocals by Beverley Knight and Lynval Golding, the score is gorgeous and powerful, adding to the sights and sounds displayed on stage.

It’s hard to pick a standout in the company but Associate Choreographer Lukas McFarlane absolutely impresses with this technique, athleticism, and stage presence.

Honestly, I went into this with no expectations, and by the end, I was overwhelmed with emotion. You can feel the passion of the entire company as well as those behind the scenes. There is a lot of love and empathy in this tale that takes a true-life tragedy and shows how fragile we are and how love, heartbreak, strength, and freedom shape our hearts.

“Message in a Bottle” is only here for a week, so grab your tickets and experience one of the season’s most unique and powerful events.

“Message in a Bottle” runs through February 11th at the Pantages Theater in Los Angeles.
For more information and tickets, visit

Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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