Parsons, who made his Broadway debut in The Normal Heart (and will appear in its film version), is beloved for playing brainy outsider Sheldon, a theoretical physicist, on TV's "The Big Bang Theory," for which he won two Emmy Awards. Now, he's playing another famous social outsider, Elwood P. Dowd, regarded as a high-functioning nut in Harvey. Could it be that tippling Elwood — whose almost-constant companion is a "pooka," or spirit, in rabbit form — is the sane one in the play?
Harvey "seems to have set [Elwood] free, to have knocked off layers of tension, of worry, anything that gets in the way of making full contact with people," Parsons told Playbill magazine. Elwood, who everyone wants to see institutionalized, is experiencing "freedom, peacefulness, happiness."
There's something "about this man's relationship to the world around him, and everybody else's reaction to that relationship, that feels timely," Parsons said. "There's a real connectedness Elwood seems to have to the literal world around him that everybody else seems to be viewing as disconnectedness. Everyone else seems to feel he's missing the boat. I think that in many ways Elwood is…captain of his boat. He very much feels the waters of these seas."
The complete company includes Tony Award nominee Jessica Hecht (A View From the Bridge); Tony nominee Charles Kimbrough (Company, Sunday in the Park With George, "Murphy Brown"); Tony nominee Larry Bryggman (Proof); Peter Benson; Tracee Chimo; Holley Fain; Angela Paton; Rich Sommer (Harry in "Mad Men"); Morgan Spector; and Carol Kane ("Taxi," Wicked).
According to Roundabout, "Parsons stars as one of modern theatre's most lovable characters, Elwood P. Dowd. Charming and kind, Elwood has only one character flaw: an unwavering friendship with a 6-foot-tall, invisible white rabbit named Harvey. In order to save the family's social reputation, Elwood's sister Veta (Jessica Hecht) takes Elwood to the local sanatorium. But when the doctors mistakenly commit his anxiety-ridden sister, Elwood — and Harvey — slip out of the hospital unbothered, setting off a hilarious whirlwind of confusion and chaos as everyone in town tries to catch a man and his invisible rabbit."
In the new production, Kimbrough plays William R. Chumley, M.D., head of the sanitarium known as Chumley's Rest; Bryggman plays Judge Omar Gaffney; Kane plays Betty Chumley, who is charmed by Elwood; Benson (Promises, Promises; Wonderful Town) plays cabbie E.J. Lofgren; Chimo (Off-Broadway's The Break of Noon, Circle Mirror Transformation) plays Elwood's niece, Myrtle Mae Simmons; Fain (Roundabout's Present Laughter) plays Ruth Kelly, R.N.; Paton (a veteran of A.C.T. productions in San Francisco) plays Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet, a longtime family friend; Sommer plays orderly Duane Wilson; Spector (Rodolfo of the 2010 Broadway revival of A View From the Bridge) plays Lyman Sanderson, M.D., the second-in-command at Chumley's Rest.
Roundabout is presenting the play in association with producer Don Gregory (The Belle of Amherst).
The original Harvey ran on Broadway for four years. (James Stewart made the role famous in the film; he took over the Broadway role from 1944 originator Frank Fay.) Stewart also appeared in a 1970 Broadway revival of the play.
Tony Award nominee Ellis is the associate artistic director of Roundabout Theatre Company. For Roundabout, he has directed Twelve Angry Men, The Man Who Had All the Luck, The Boys From Syracuse, The Rainmaker, 1776, She Loves Me, Picnic, Company and A Month in the Country.
Harvey plays Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with a Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinee at 2 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the Studio 54 box office (254 W. 54th Street). Ticket prices range from $37-$122.
Tickets are available by calling Roundabout Ticket Services at (212) 719-1300 or online at roundabouttheatre.org.