Larry Kramer's The Normal Heart, Starring Joe Mantello, Opens on Broadway April 27

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27 Apr 2011

Joe Mantello
Joe Mantello
Photo by Joan Marcus

Utilizing elements from a starry reading that was seen in October 2010, Larry Kramer's groundbreaking, emotionally powerful The Normal Heart officially makes its Broadway debut April 27 following previews that began April 19 at the John Golden Theatre.

As he did in the earlier reading, Tony winner Joe Mantello plays Ned Weeks, the hero of the drama about fear in the early days of the AIDS crisis. Fellow Tony winner Joel Grey, who can be seen in the critically acclaimed revival of Anything Goes, again directs. (George C. Wolfe helped supervise through opening night.)

The cast of the 12-week engagement also boasts Ellen Barkin as Dr. Emma Brookner, Patrick Breen as Mickey Marcus, John Benjamin Hickey as Felix Turner, Luke Macfarlane as Craig Donner/Grady, Lee Pace as Bruce Niles, Jim Parsons as Tommy Boatwright, Mark Harelik as Ben Weeks, Richard Topol as Hiram Keebler/Examining Doctor and Wayne Wilcox as David. Barkin will be honored with a Special Achievement Award by the Outer Critics Circle for her "Outstanding Broadway Debut" at the May 26 ceremony.

The production marks the Broadway debut of writer-activist Kramer and a Broadway acting return for Mantello, who gave up performing (he was a Tony nominee for playing Louis in Angels in America) in recent years in favor of directing (Assassins, Take Me Out, Wicked, 9 to 5, The Odd Couple). It also marks the Broadway directing debut of Tony Award-winning actor Grey.

"The story of a city in denial," The Normal Heart, according press notes state, "unfolds like a real-life political thriller — as a tight-knit group of friends refuses to let doctors, politicians and the press bury the truth of an unspoken epidemic behind a wall of silence. First produced by Joseph Papp at New York's Public Theater, the play was a critical sensation and a seminal moment in theater history. So ahead of its time was this play that many of the core issues it addresses — including gay marriage, the healthcare system and, of course, AIDS — are just as relevant today as they were when it first premiered."



Read the Playbill.com Stage to Screens interview with Jim Parsons of TV's "The Big Bang Theory."

The design team includes David Rockwell (sets), Martin Pakledinaz (costumes), David Weiner (lighting), David Van Tieghem (sound) and Batwin & Robin (projections).

Audiences who attend The Normal Heart will receive a letter written by the playwright upon exiting the theatre. At some performances, the playwright himself distributes the letter, which is titled "Please Know." To view the letter, click here.

A 25th anniversary benefit staged reading of Kramer's The Normal Heart, directed by Grey, was presented at the Walter Kerr Theatre Oct. 18, 2010. Daryl Roth produced the reading, which supported both the Actors Fund and Friends in Deed.

Ellen Barkin
photo by Joan Marcus

Director Grey starred in the original 1985 Off-Broadway production of The Normal Heart at The Public Theater, in which he played Ned, based semi-autobiographically on playwright Kramer. (Grey succeeded Brad Davis, who originated the role.) Worth Street Theatre revived the play Off-Broadway in 2004, at the Public.

The Normal Heart will support a group of dedicated nonprofit organizations, including The Actors Fund and Friends In Deed, among others.

Producers are Daryl Roth, Paul Boskind and Martian Entertainment in association with Gregory Rae and Jayne Baron Sherman/Alexander Fraser.

The production will also host a series of post-show talkbacks beginning May 3. Immediately following Tuesday performances, members of the community will lead a Tuesday TalkOut, which will underscore the themes and historical context of the play.

Participants will include Freedom to Marry president and founder Evan Wolfson, designer Kenneth Cole, amfAR CEO Kevin Front, stage and screen star Cheyenne Jackson, Friends in Deed president Cynthia O’Neal, original Rent star Anthony Rapp, HRC campaign strategist Brian Ellner and many more.

The full schedule for the Tuesday TalkOut series follows:

May 3
The Freedom to Marry In—and Since—The Normal Heart
With Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry and author of "Why Marriage Matters."

May 10
Q & A
A discussion with Kenneth Cole, amfAR CEO Kevin Frost, and actor and activist Cheyenne Jackson.

May 17
Friends In Deed, AIDS and the Rent Connection
With Cynthia O'Neal, co-founder and president of Friends In Deed, and Anthony Rapp, actor and Friends In Deed board member.

May 24
Connecting the Dots of History: How Religion-Based Bigotry Stifled Early Proper AIDS Funding
With Mitchell Gold, of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, and Jimmy Creech, author of "Adam's Gift: A Memoir of a Pastor’s Calling to Defy the Church’s Persecution of Lesbians and Gays"

May 31
A Conversation About What It Means to be Gay in America Today

With Dr. Joy Browne, WOR radio psychologist

June 7
DIFFA: Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS—Its History and Purpose
With Steven Williams, Director of Community Relations and Operations, DIFFA

June 14
The Fight for Marriage Equality in New York
With Brian Ellner, HRC Senior Campaign Strategist

June 21
Responding to the Crisis—Past, Present and Future: The Actors Fund’s HIV/AIDS Initiative
With Joseph P. Benincasa, President and CEO and Barbara Davis, COO, The Actors Fund

Additional talkbacks and participants will be announced shortly. For updates and complete information, visit http://thenormalheartbroadway.com/talkout.php.

Tickets, priced  $26.50-$116.50, are available via Telecharge.com, by calling (212) 239-6200, or in person at the John Golden Theatre box office (252 West 45th Street).