“He’s a way better looking version of myself,” Harry Connick Jr. said of his “Thou Shalt Not” star Craig Bierko.
Matching black suits and 6-foot-3 statures aside, Connick’s affinity for the star of his first Broadway musical might end right there. At Thursday night’s opening-night party, guests at Tavern on the Green were wondering why Connick’s three best songs went to lesser-known co-star Norbert Leo Butz, whose character, Camille, is offed by Bierko and Kate Levering in the first act and returns in the second act as a ghost to deliver the evening’s show-stopper “Oh! Ain’t That Sweet.”
“Camille is closest emotionally to Harry, who told me he most identified with him,” said Butz, who sat at a reserved table with wife Sydney and agent Elin Flack. According to Butz, “Ain’t That Sweet” was a late entry in the show’s preview process. “Harry got the inspiration jogging one morning, wrote it up and the song went into the show the next day. That was only two weeks ago.”
Connick said he wrote 15 songs for the musical before he got word that director Susan Stroman and book writer David Thompson had updated the source material, Emile Zola’s “Therese Raquin,” from 1868 Paris to 1946 New Orleans.
For her part, Stroman has followed up her Girl in the Yellow Dress from “Contact” with Levering’s Adultress in a Red Dress in “Thou Shalt Not,” with the dancer’s topless ballet on top of a bed worth half a dozen tix to “Mamma Mia!”
“There’s a little bit of me in both characters,” admitted Stroman, whose best choreography has always been inspired by raw sex. “Those dresses just dance.”
As for the equally X-rated ballet music, Stroman chalked it up to the perfect collaboration: “I would dance it and Harry would watch and visualize.”