There is a popular image of a con artist that doesn’t exist in the real world.
It’s an image of well-dressed, suave, fast-talking swindlers who—despite their dodgy dealings—always do the right thing in the end.
After all, they have a code.
Johnny Hooker and Henry Gondorf in The Sting.
Danny Ocean and his gang in the Ocean’s film.
The casts of shows like Hustle, Leverage and white collar.
But before all of them was Professor Harold Hill, the title character of the Meredith Wilson musical, The Music Man.
The story of a small-time con man’s attempts to convince the people of river city Iowa to invest in his non-existence boy’s band has been a staple of theatre, movies, and TV since it premiered in 1957.
In 2022, the musical broke box office records when Hugh Jackman starred in a revival. It's also the inspiration for the monorail episode of The Simpsons.
On this episode of Scamapalooza, I talk to theatre maker Em Chandler about why Harold Hill has endured and what about musical theatre makes it the perfect medium for telling a swindler's story.
EM's TWITTER: www.twitter.com/polyponder