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The Sting 

Photo: Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade)

                                    By Jeanne Lieberman

Brace yourself Broadway! A Big Brawny Musical may be heading your way

led by Harry Connick, Jr. and a tireless troupe of terpsichorean tap dancers.


Papermill’s 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


Harry Connick, Jr. (Henry Gondorff) and J. Harrison Ghee (Johnny Hooker)

                                                                                  (Evan Zimmerman For Murphymade)


Paul 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.


Kevyn Morrow, Peter Benson, J. Harrison Ghee


The 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.


It 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”).


Harry Connick, Jr. (Henry Gondorff) and J. Harrison Ghee (Johnny Hooker) are con men joined to avenge a buddy's murder.



Director 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. LaPointe.



Photo Credit: Jerry Dalia and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade


In 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.


Harry 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.

His 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”.


It 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

“The Sting” to the delight of the audience keeping up with it all. 



Broadway 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!

But this no con. This is legit!


The 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