Paper Mill Playhouse will stage the East Coast premiere of the new musical Benny & Joon beginning April 4 prior to an official opening April 14. Presented by arrangement with Larry Hirschhorn, the limited engagement will continue through May 5.
Directed by Jack Cummings III with choreography by Scott Rink and music direction by J. Oconor Navarro, the production features Claybourne Elder (Sunday in the Park with George) as Benny, Hannah Elless (Paper Mill’s The Other Josh Cohen) as Joon, Bryce Pinkham (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder) as Sam, Tatiana Wechsler (Oklahoma!) as Ruthie, Colin Hanlon (Falsettos) as Mike, Paolo Montalban (Paper Mill’s The King and I) as Larry, Natalie Toro (A Tale of Two Cities) as Dr. Cortez/Mrs. Smail, Jacob Keith Watson (Carousel) as Waldo/Video Store Owner, and Belinda Allyn (Paper Mill’s West Side Story). Conor Ryan (Paper Mill’s My Very Own British Invasion) will play the role of Sam at certain performances.
Based on the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture written by Barry Berman and Leslie McNeil, the musical has a book by Kirsten Guenther, music by Nolan Gasser, and lyrics by Mindi Dickstein,
The pair at the heart of the show are Joon, a young woman dealing with mental illness, and Benny, the big brother who’s determined to take care of her. When a charmingly eccentric stranger comes into their lives, he throws their world off-kilter.
The production will have scenic and costume design by Dane Laffrey, lighting design by R. Lee Kennedy, sound design by Kai Harada, flying by Foy, movement coordination by Lorenzo Pisoni, and orchestrations by Michael Starobin. The production stage manager is Victoria Navarro. Casting is by Nora Brennan, CSA.
The musical made its world premiere at the Old Globe in 2017; several members of the Paper Mill cast, including Elless and Pinkham, reprise their performances from the San Diego run.