Photo: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)
By Jeanne Lieberman
yourself Broadway! A Big Brawny Musical may be heading your way
by Harry Connick, Jr. and a tireless troupe of terpsichorean tap dancers.
latest shiny production follows a prestigious journey starting from George
Roy Hill’s award winning 1973 iconic film, which was loosely based on David
Maurer’s “The Big Con”. Perhaps it got a boost from New York Times Vincent
Canby’s prophetic comments: “looks and sounds like a musical comedy from which
the songs have been removed” inspiring the ragtime and jazz flavored score by Mark
Hollmann and Greg Kotis and Bob Martin’s book to complete the journey with
additional assist from Harry Connick Jr. who also added his own music and lyrics
Connick, Jr. (Henry Gondorff) and J. Harrison Ghee (Johnny Hooker)
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Newman and Robert Redford, who repeated their previous triumph with “Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”, are now replaced by junior grifter Johnny
Hooker (J. Harrison Ghee) who flees to Chicago and attaches himself to Henry Gondorff
(Mr. Connick), former king con man, wasting away drunk at a whorehouse,
dreaming of revenge on Doyle Lonnegan (Tom
Hewitt), for the death of their mutual friend Luther (Kevyn Morrow). They
enlist the likes of Billie (Kate Shindle), Gondorrf’s ex, and the high-strung
Erie Kid (Peter Benson), among others.
Morrow, Peter Benson, J. Harrison Ghee
show ingeniously begins in the hereafter with newly deceased Luther sidling along
a heavenly trombone promising “a down and dirty chronicle of deception,
betrayal and more”, setting the stage for the enormous caper about to unfold.
then becomes earthbound to a Joliet alley in the Depression 1936, and an ill-fated
con game. Gondorff and Hooker unite in their plans singing (“The Ragtime Riff”).
Connick, Jr. (Henry Gondorff) and J. Harrison Ghee (Johnny Hooker) are con men
joined to avenge a buddy's murder.
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John Rando wisely uses Warren Carlyle’s
stellar choreography as interstitial tissue connecting one scene to another and
then enhancing them in addition to Beowulf Boritt’s
ingenious swift changing sets, Paul Tazewell’s
spot on period costumes, lighting design by Japhy Weideman,
sound design by Randy Hansen,
hair and wig design by Charles G.
Dalia and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade
fact Carlyle’s choreography is as much a part of the production as its dialogue,
utilizing tap like crisp diction to create tension, agitation, joy, passion and,
throughout, a sense of exultation as the uniformly nimble cast, utilizing only
minimal sets, careens back and forth from vivid street chases to a private club
which appears and vanishes before your eyes, an integral part of the Big Sting
as one con eclipses another with dazzling speed. All this atop the musical
trampoline provided by the score with vocal arrangements by Fred Lassen, dance
arrangements by David
Chase, and glorious orchestrations by veteran Doug Besterman.
Connick Jr is in excellent voice; he sings, he plays the piano, he acts, he
dances (well, almost) but who cares, though his general affability undermines
the tension simmering under all the plot’s antics, not quite as sly as required
by his central role of a schemer.
sidekick, velvet voiced J. Harrison Ghee making his Papermill debut, may be currently
unknown, but will soon become unforgettable; boyishly brave as needed, his
dancing sinuous as snake, yet heartbreakingly vulnerable in his courtship of
waitress Loretta (Janet Dacal) as they connect in the lovely ballad “Some
Say’. That he is black only adds to the precariousness of his role. And Hooker
and Luther deliver perhaps the most stunning moment in the show in their quiet breathtakingly
stylized number “Confidence”.
would not only be impossible but a disservice to attempt to replicate the intricacies
of the twists of the corkscrew plot. Additionally the show adopts the old vaudeville
ploy using cute chorus girls strutting across the stage bearing signs
signifying the different chapters in the plot leading up to
Sting” to the delight of the audience keeping up with it all.
has always welcomed con men from The Music Man to The Producers and if a pair
of con artists look vaguely familiar…just read today’s headlines!
this no con. This is legit!
Broadway-bound engagement of The Sting will play a limited engagement
through Sunday, April 29, 2018 at Paper Mill
Playhouse located at 22 Brookside Drive in Millburn, NJ. Tickets are
on sale now starting at $34. Tickets may be purchased by calling 973.376.4343,
at the Paper
Mill Playhouse Box Office or online at https://papermill.org/