The Sweet Smell of Success


The Sweet Smell of Success

Full-Length Musical, Drama  /  9f, 18m

Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Lyrics by Craig Carnelia
Book by John Guare
Based on the novel by Ernest Lehman and the MGM/United Artists motion picture

Based on the 1957 movie of the same name, The Sweet Smell of Success tells the story of a powerful newspaper columnist named J. J. Hunsecker who uses his connections to ruin his sister's relationship with a man he deems inappropriate.

Image: 2012 Arcola Theatre Production (Tristram Kenton)

  • Cast Size
    Cast Size
    9f, 18m
  • Audience
    Target Audience
    Adult, Teen (Age 14 - 18)
  • Nominee! 2002 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Book of a Musical, Outstanding Music, and Oustanding Lyrics
    Nominee! 2002 Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score 
Licence details
  • Licensing fees and rental materials quoted upon application.


It’s New York, 1952. Welcome to Broadway, the glamour and power capital of the universe. J.J. Hunsecker rules it all with his daily gossip column in the New York Globe, syndicated to sixty million readers across America. J.J. has the goods on everyone, from the president to the latest starlet. And everyone feeds J.J. scandal, from J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Joe McCarthy down to a battalion of hungry press agents who attach their news to a client that J.J. might plug. When a young press agent, Sidney, tries to hitch his wagon to J.J. while keeping secrets about his client’s new relationship with J.J.’s sister, he learns that you can become no one if J.J. turns on you.

Sweet Smell of Success was first presented on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre in March of 2002 under the direction of Nicholas Hytner. It starred John Lithgow. 
Cast Attributes
  • Room for Extras
Performing Groups
  • High School/Secondary
  • College Theatre / Student
  • Community Theatre
  • Professional Theatre

JJ Hunsecker - A powerful gossip columnist
Sidney - A struggling press agent
Susan - JJ's sister, a classy beauty who falls in love with Dallas
Dallas - A hot young jazz piano player, who falls in love with Susan
Rita - Sidney's waitress girlfriend
Blue Angel Press Agent
Empire Room Press Agent
Abigail Barclay
Tony - The owner of a sleazy jazz joint, Club Voodoo
Billy Van Cleve
Pregnant Woman
Pepper White's Escort
Otis Elwell - JJ's rival gossip column monger
Dead Actress
Kello - Powerful and sinister police detective.
Club Zanibar Singer
Cathedral Soloist
Senator's Girlfriend
Tony's Caprice Bartender
Telethon Announcer
JJ's Vaudeville Partner
Press Agent

  • Time Period 1950s
  • Setting New York City
  • Cautions
    • Mild Adult Themes



"John Guare has bravely gone beyond slavish adaptation while retaining many of the Hunseckerisms that fans of the film love to quote."
- Curtain Up


  • The Cast of Sweet Smell of Success performing Dirt at 56th Tony Awards

  • Brian d'Arcy James performs At the Fountain

  • covers concert reading of Sweet Smell of Success


  • The Sweet Smell of Success

    Image: 2012 Arcola Theatre Production (Tristram Kenton)

  • The Sweet Smell of Success

    Image: 2012 Arcola Theatre Production (Tristram Kenton)


Song Samples

The Column
I Could Get You in JJ
I Cannot Hear the City
Welcome to the Night
Laughin' All the Way to the Bank
At the Fountain
Don't Know Where You Leave Off
What If
For Susan
One Track Mind
Break It Up
Rita's Tune
I Could Get You in JJ (Reprise)
I Cannot Hear the City (Reprise)
Don't Look Now
At the Fountain (Reprise)
  • Orchestra SizeLarge


Music Rentals

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21 Piano-Conductor Scores Keyboard I

1 Keyboard II
1 Percussion I
1 Percussion II
1 Trumpet I
1 Trumpet II
1 Horn
1 Cello
1 Reed 1
1 Reed 2
1 Reed 3
1 Reed 4
1 Reed 5
1 Trombone 1
1 Trombone 2
1 Trombone 3
1 Drums
1 Bass
1 Xylophone
21 Piano-Conductor Scores Keyboard


Marvin Hamlisch

June 2, 1944—August 6, 2012

As composer, Marvin Hamlisch won virtually every major award that exists: three Oscars, four Grammys, four Emmys, a Tony, three Golden Globe awards, and the Pulitzer Prize (won by A Chorus Line). Only Hamlisch and Richard Rodgers have won a “PEGOT” ...

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John Guare

John Guare's plays include Lydie Breeze; Bosoms and Neglect; The House of Blue Leaves, which won an Obie and NY Drama Critics Circle Award for the Best American Play of 1970-71 and four Tonys in its 1986 Lincoln Center revival; and Six Degrees of Separation, which received th ...
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Craig Carnelia

Carnelia grew up in Floral Park, New York. He was exposed to Broadway at the age of fourteen when he was inspired by the Richard Rodgers musical No Strings. He played guitar, was in a folksinging group and taught himself to play the piano. While attending Hofstra University h ...
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