A Broadway premiere production of Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart is headed for the Golden Theatre, starring Joe Mantello as Ned Weeks alongside a supporting cast that will include Ellen Barkin and John Benjamin Hickey. Cheyenne Jackson is in talks to appear in the production, as well. Joel Grey, who directed an Actors Fund staged reading of the play in October and played Ned in the original 1985 off-Broadway production of the play, will helm the Broadway production. Previews are set to begin on April 19, with opening night on April 27.
As previously reported, after The Normal Heart's successful benefit performance, producer Daryl Roth put the wheels in motion to bring the 1985 AIDS crisis drama to the Great White Way. The play focuses on the terrifying early years of the AIDS epidemic in New York and centers on writer/activist Ned Weeks (Mantello). John Benjamin Hickey will reprise his role as Ned’s lover, Felix Turner. Jackson will likely play Tommy, a gay activist played in the reading by Jack McBrayer, and Barkin takes the role of Dr. Emma Brookner, a role played in October by Glenn Close. Additional casting is expected to be announced shortly.
The production will mark a return to acting for Mantello, who has not appeared on a Broadway stage since he received a Tony nomination for his turn as Louis in Angels in America in 1993. He has since gone on to direct many high-profile musicals and plays, including Wicked, 9 to 5, Pal Joey, Three Days of Rain, Glengarry Glen Ross, Love! Valour! Compassion! and November. He won Tony Awards for his direction of Assassins and Take Me Out.
Hickey has appeared on Broadway in Mary Stuart, The Crucible, Cabaret and Love! Valour! Compassion!.
Barkin, known for starring roles in films such as Diner, Sea of Love, The Big Easy and Ocean’s Thirteen, will make her Broadway debut in The Normal Heart. Her off-Broadway credits include Fool for Love, Eden Court, Extremities, Killings on the Last Line and Shout Across the River.
Jackson has starred on Broadway credits include All Shook Up, Xanadu and Finian's Rainbow and the Encores! summer production of Damn Yankees. His TV credits include Glee, 30 Rock, Lipstick Jungle and Ugly Betty.
The play premiered at the Public Theater on April 21, 1985, for a run of 294 performances. The late Brad Davis opened as Ned and was later replaced by Grey. The play was revived at the Public in 2004 with Raul Esparza as Ned.
The Golden Theatre's current tenant, Driving Miss Daisy, is set to close on April 9. The Normal Heart will share its opening night with Baby It's You!, just before the Tony eligibility deadline. Grey will juggle his directing duties on The Normal Heart with his forthcoming role as Moonface Martin in the Broadway revival of Anything Goes. Mantello is scheduled to direct MCC Theater’s off-Broadway production of The Other Place, which begins performances on March 10, starring Laurie Metcalf.