New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

For great Jersey music and much more, tune into our radio station at

REVIEW: "The Sting" at Paper Mill Playhouse

By Adam F. Cohen

originally published: 04/10/2018

REVIEW: "The Sting" at Paper Mill Playhouse

(MILLBURN, NJ) -- Scott Joplin’s classic rag “The Entertainer” is highly recognizable. It was used to great effect in an Oscar winning movie called The Sting which happed to star Paul Newman and Robert Redford.  Joplin was born in Texas and found his true calling as a ragtime composer in Chicago in 1893.  His compositions helped fuel ragtime into a major craze. Joplin’s rags are a featured part of the absolutely entertaining new musical The Sting which premiered at Paper Mill Playhouse on April 8th.

The Sting is probably the last movie one would consider musicalizing.  Yet, in the capable hands of Harry Connick, Jr. and in a star making turn J. Harrison Ghee (Johnny Hooker) it absolutely makes sense. 

Set during the Depression in Chicago, the plot involves the teaming of a legendary con man, Henry Gondorff (Harry Connick, Jr.) with a capable young protege, Johnny Hooker (J. Harrison Ghee) to use an intricate long con bent on revenenge.  Together they want to take down Doyle Lonnegan (Tom Hewitt), a filthy rich, ruthless crime kingpin who has murdered an old friend and mentor of Gondorff and Hooker.  Gondorff started his career 25 years earlier as a piano player, when Joplin's tunes were popular, and he and his partner use the music to distract people as they work their cons.  The plan has inherent risks – namely death at the hands of crooked cops or wronged gangsters – but immense rewards – wealth.  Gondorff assembles a capable team of grifters and puts the plan in motion.

REVIEW: "The Sting" at Paper Mill Playhouse

This world premiere musical, deftly directed by John Rando, has elements of an old fashion musical, but the book’s twists and turns keep you on your toes.  Bob Martin’s (The Drowsy Chaperone) book is spry, laced with one-liners. The songs range from jazz, torch, a Sinatra-esqe 11 o’clock number for Connick, Jr.  The score is vibrant.  The dialogue swift.  The dancing tremendous.  The elements are all there for a long award-winning Broadway run.

Plot-heavy but lacing with beautiful, spry story-enhancing dances by Warren Carlyle.  It’s unique that the dancing advances the story more than the abundant songs by Urinetown creators Mark Hollman and Greg Kotis with additional material by Connick, Jr.  Carlyle uses tap within an evasive chase. An Agnes DeMille-esqe ballet propels act two.  The ensemble work is graceful, athletic and engaging.  And Connick Jr gets in the act also, showcasing his nimble, broad talent with happy feet, demonstrative piano playing, composition, acting, and singing.  The show is the perfect confluence of Connick Jr’s multiple talent.

The article continues after this ad


The songs offer great ensemble turns while also establishing character shadings, without necessarily advancing the story, as much as the dancing does.  Janet Dacal has a lovely torch number in act 2.  Kate Shindle has a turn as Henry’s on and off lover and she gamely gets into the con, as well. 

The production team has done an excellent job of bringing the style of the 1930's to the Millburn stage. The team includes set design by Beowulf Boritt – there’s an Edward Hopper toned diner where Hooker relaxes. The sets are set on casters and moved by the cast much as they would have been in the 1930s. He creates a multi-car train, Western Union office, and most effectively the betting parlor of the con. The sets are amazing with sound costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Japhy Weideman is lush and beautiful, using light to frame scenes and spaces. Doug Besterman’s orchestrations are tight and lumiscent. Kudos to the casting for Tara Rubin Casting for bringing Richard Kline (Three’s Company), Robert Wuhl (Arliss) to New Jersey for The Sting’s run – each has fun turns in the show.

REVIEW: "The Sting" at Paper Mill Playhouse

And Ghee is a genuine star in the making.  He’s a spry, long-legged dancer with a smooth voice.  His Hooker is compelling and he’s got a genuine connection with Connick, Jr.  They complement one another and propel the show to another level with a rapport as deep and fluid as Redford and Newman’s.  This is a fun production, with great music, engaging performances, and beautiful dances.

The Sting runs until April 29th at Paper Mill Playhouse (22 Brookside Drive, Millburn, NJ). Tickets and more information at

REVIEW: "The Sting" at Paper Mill Playhouse

Photos by Evan Zimmerman and Jerry Dalia.

For more by this author, click here

Dreamcatcher Presents World Premiere of "Psychodrama"
(SUMMIT, NJ) -- Dreamcatcher Repertory Theatre will present the World Premiere of Psychodrama by Montclair playwright Phoebe Farber. This seriocomedy unfolds in a divorce support group where a new leader introduces unorthodox methods that just might work. Psychodrama runs February 14-March 3.
Centenary Stage Presents Henrik Ibsen's "Enemy Of The People"
(HACKETTSTOWN, NJ) -- Randall Duk Kim and Anne Occhiogrosso headline Centenary Stage Company’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People, February 15 through March 3 in the Sitnik Theatre of the Lackland Performing Arts Center, Hackettstown, New Jersey. Adapted by John Alan Wyatt and directed by Anne Occhiogrosso, the production will feature Randall Duk Kim as Doctor Thomas Stockmann supported by an acting company of professional and local talent from the tri-state area and Centenary University. The full-scale production marks the culmination of the 2018 Gates Ferry Lecture Series: “What is Truth?”
South Street Players Presents "Sylvia"
(SPRING LAKE,NJ) -- The South Street Players presents A.R. Gurney's "Sylvia" on two weekends - February 1-3 and February 8-10. The place is New York City, the time is the present.  Middle-aged, upper-middle class Greg finds Sylvia, a dog (played by a human), in the park and takes a liking to her. He brings her back to the empty nest he shares with Kate.  
American Girl Live: An Interview With Laila E. Drew and Shelby Miguel
Please note: Due to the potential of a major winter storm on Saturday, both performances of American Girl Live at Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown have been postponed and rescheduled for President’s Day, Monday, February 18 at 2 pm and 5:30 pm. All tickets will be honored on that date. If you cannot attend the new date, please contact the box office at 973-539-8008.
"Kinky Boots" Comes To Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City
(ATLANTIC CITY, NJ) -- Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in conjunction with TROIKA Entertainment is will present KINKY BOOTS, the smash-hit musical that brings together four-time Tony® Award-winner Harvey Fierstein (Book) and Grammy® Award-winning rock icon Cyndi Lauper (Tony Award-winner for Best Score for KINKY BOOTS), at Sound Waves in Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City from April 30 until May 5 with two performances on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets starting at $35.00.

Laiona Michelle Talks About "Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical"
This might be the right time for Nina Simone—15 years after her death. That’s what Laiona Michelle thinks, and, in a way, Michelle will be testing that idea by bringing the singer-activist to life in a world-premiere musical show at George Street Playhouse. Michelle wrote the show—“Little Girl Blue: The Nina Simone Musical”—and she will appear in the title role at the New Brunswick theater from January 29 through February 24.
It's "Apple Season" at NJ Rep
Every family has stories. Some are funny. Some are sweet. Some are sad. And some are never shared. Those are often the most powerful.
Rise of the Goatman
Theater For The New City presents Beltsville/Rockville, Part 1: Rise of the Goatman, an original play by Englewood resident Matt Okin (Artistic Director of Black Box Studios), from December 27 through January 13. In this pseudo-Southern Gothic dark comedy, a vibrant group of teens from two very different suburban neighborhoods clash over class differences, drugs, and sex - and the existence of the legendary ‘Goatman’ in 1986. Cut to 2013, and the adolescent kids of those very same teens are struggling to make sense of their family histories - and the same “mythological” creature - that could be holding them back in life.
PHOTOS from "The Winter's Tale" at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey
(MADISON, NJ) -- The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s concludes its 56th season with its sixth and final Main Stage production, The Winter's Tale. Last seen at The Shakespeare Theatre in 2008, Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte directs this production of Shakespeare’s tragicomedic romance. Veteran company members Jacqueline Antaramian, Jon Barker, Erin Partin, John Keabler, Raphael Nash Thompson,Seamus Mulcahy, Patrick Toon, and Ames Adamson are among a cast of 20 actors. Performances run now through December 30. 
REVIEW: "It's A Wonderful Life" At Mile Square Theatre
Nestled in a corner of Hoboken, on the second floor, lies the studios of radio station WMST.  It’s a wonderful art deco studio, replete with fine wooden walls, embedded with colorful lights an applause sign.  On stage, we’ve got a few chairs, several microphones and a whole corner wedged with all the necessary props – piano, men’s shoes, sheet metal – to create the audio effects for the production of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.

Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2019 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.