The original cast featured Broadway veterans Eli Wallach and Jean Stapleton, but Zero Mostel's wild transformation from man to rhinoceros would prove the most widely remembered. The production ushered in the high point of Mostel's career following a period of personal and professional setbacks. In the 1950s, he was blacklisted for pleading the Fifth Amendment before the House Un-American Activities Committee. In January 1960, one year prior to Rhinoceros, he was struck by a crosstown bus near his New York apartment, sustaining a leg injury so severe that he narrowly avoided amputation.
Despite strong reviews, the play received just two Tony nominations. Joseph Anthony earned a nomination for his direction, and Mostel won his first of three Best Actor Tonys. Rhinoceros has not appeared on Broadway since its debut more than 50 years ago.