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The entertainment value ain’t no con job

Elora Community Theatre is bringing the 1973 film The Sting to the Fergus Grand Theatre for two weekends of con artists, humour and hijinks.

Directed by Jim Monaghan and Simon Leibovitz, the play will be very similar to the movie.

“I’ve got the movie at home and I’ve compared. I’ve got, in fact, the book in my hand and I’ve listened to the dialogue and some of it’s spot on,” Monaghan said.

There are a couple of differences, one being the play version has a narrator, who is an older woman recounting her part in the sting operation to a reporter. This turns out to be another sting at the end of the play, an aspect which is not in the movie.

Based on the screenplay The Sting by David Ward, audiences can expect a fast-paced show with a bevy of characters. It was written for more than 40 characters, but Monaghan has consolidated it down to 23 actors, half of whom are playing multiple roles.

“This play really jumps around a lot, which will keep people that watch the show interested because there’s no one scene that looks the same as the last one,” Monaghan said.

They’ve broke down the play into 50 different scenes and audiences will get to watch them switch sets right on stage, which will be choreographed and he says just as fun to watch as the show itself.

He submitted the play to the show selection committee for consideration because he enjoyed the movie when it came out and thought it was doable for ECT.

Here, Mary Ann Neville as the narrator, Mrs. Vanderkieft, tells her story to reporter Miss Hastings, played by Kim Young – a part of the play that’s not in the movie. [Whitney Neilson / The Observer]

“There is certainly a lot of scenes and characters in it, but I still thought it was achievable and thought it would bring a lot of people into the theatre, and a lot of new people into the theatre that may remember the movie or heard about it and wanted to see the live version of it,” Monaghan said.

They started full run-throughs of the show this month in their West Montrose rehearsal space, and so far he says it’s going well, even for those who have to keep multiple characters and their varied personalities separate.

“Everyone’s off book, everyone’s really picking up on their characters. The scenes are so small in a lot of cases they’re just caricatures, so I’m almost asking them to go over the top and get it to where we think it should be,” Monaghan said.

Set during the Great Depression, the story was inspired by real-life con artists Fred and Charley Gondorff. The show contains a sting within a sting within a, well, you get the picture. And then at the very end when you think all the stings are done, they hit you with another one.

The play features toe-tapping music like Scott Joplin’s famous The Entertainer, as well as era-appropriate costumes and props, like old rotary phones.

“I think for those who’ve seen The Sting I think they’ll enjoy the live version of it. For those who haven’t seen The Sting, it’s a very fast-paced, crime caper kind of like an older Oceans 11 and I think that the young and old will enjoy the story and the whole gist of it.”

Elora Community Theatre’s The Sting runs Feb. 24-26 and Mar. 3-5 at the Fergus Grand Theatre with shows on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m. For tickets call 519-787-1981 or visit www.fergusgrandtheatre.ca.

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