a.k.a. Norman, the lascivious librarian
Life Before Norman: A TV star in England thanks to recurring roles in two hit BBC series, Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years and Green Wing, this London native won’t be endorsing hair-loss products anytime soon. “Mangan is Gaelic for hairy, or the luxurious growth of hair,” he jokes.
Onstage Scoop: The beard and shaggy ’do were cultivated for his newest role. “Norman’s a walking erection,” Mangan quips. “The only thing that interests him is connecting with women. So he spends the play trying to seduce his wife, his wife’s sister and his sister-in-law.” All that, and he’s rather loveable, too. “He’s very smart, very sensitive to people’s moods and what they need. And he’s good to be in a room with, even if you disapprove of him. He just comes in with this incredible exuberance and energy and anarchy.”
Backstage Skinny: If Mangan calls Norman “the play’s bomb,” the actor himself prefers a more contained atmosphere offstage, particularly when it comes to lighting. At the Old Vic, the actor even brought in his own lamps to give his dressing room a mellow, den-like ambience. “I can’t live with bad lighting,” he says. “It upsets me physically.”
a.k.a. Ruth, Norman’s workaholic wife
Life Before Norman: First turning heads as Steve Coogan’s sex-hungry Ukrainian girlfriend in the British TV series I’m Alan Partridge, Bullmore has worked steadily as a writer-performer since the early ‘90s, with a resume that encompasses movies, radio shows, sketch comedy, TV dramas, soap operas and Shakespeare.
Onstage Scoop: Bullmore plays Norman’s wife, Ruth, a work-obsessed control freak who refuses to wear glasses, despite the fact that she’s literally and figuratively short-sighted. “She’s difficult, abrasive, unpopular, unhappy,” the actress says. And her good qualities? “Sharp. Passionate. Funny.”
Backstage Skinny: The micromanaging Ruth may always be on the run, but when it comes to her Broadway debut, Bullmore would be happy for a place to lay her head. “We’re impressed by the evident dynamism of American actors, because there is nothing bed-like or soft in our dressing rooms,” she says with a laugh, “which suggests that we are terrible lazy slobs. We daren’t ask for anything soft. ‘They come over from England and all they want is a bed?!’”
a.k.a. Tom, the repressed vet
Life Before Norman: Although he’s played small parts in big-budget movies like V for Vendetta and Speed Racer and has worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company in multiple productions, Miles is best known for playing the financially and physically well-endowed Patrick in the BBC sitcom Coupling.
Onstage Scoop: Not one for typecasting, Miles makes his Broadway debut playing Tom, a small-town vet who spends a lot of time with Norman’s sister-in-law, Annie. “He’s in a semi-relationship with her but finds it difficult to communicate, so nothing’s ever really said,” the actor explains. “I just sort of hover around the house. I do odd jobs, fix things. And I’m obsessed with Annie’s cat, which doesn’t seem to be very well.”
Backstage Skinny: After completing their London run, the cast has the trilogy down pat now, but Miles admits that wasn’t always the case. “I’d turn up for work at the Old Vic thinking we were doing one play. Then I’d hear the first lines and think, ‘That’s not right.’ Then, ‘Oh shit, we’re doing the other play!’ Luckily I’ve got the same costume for the start of each show.”
a.k.a. Annie, the aggravated hausfrau
Life Before Norman: In addition to an impressive film resume Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Shaun of the Dead, Hynes became one of the Britain’s A-list comediennes by co-writing and co-starring in the cult hit BBC series Spaced. Quentin Tarantino swears by it.
Onstage Scoop: Playing Annie, Hynes spends the first half of each play in wrinkled house clothes; the second half all cleaned up or tarted up, according to her sister-in-law. “She lives in the house with her ailing mother, stuck living back at home after several failed attempts to play a meaningful role in the outside world.” Despite her ambiguous connection with Tom, there’s a flash of hope when Norman invites her on a seedy weekend-for-two getaway. “He gives her an opportunity for a little happiness, to just go away for a bit,” she says. “But of course, it all goes horrendously wrong.”
Backstage Skinny: Unlike her onstage alter ego, Hynes seems quite content with her offstage life: “I like drinking tea. I do a lot of stretching. I like lying around on the floor.”
a.k.a. Reg, Sarah’s optimist husband
Life Before Norman: Ritter, who appeared in the most recent James Bond flick, Quantum of Solace, is no stranger to trilogy performances, as he appeared in the National Theatre’s production of Tom Stoppard’s three-part epic The Coast of Utopia. “But that was more than 11 hours,” he specifies. “Norman is around nine, so it feels relatively contained.” He’s joking—we think.
Onstage Scoop: Ritter plays Reg, sister of Annie, husband of Sarah, father of two and—this is going to sound weird—all-around happy person. “He’s one of life’s optimists,” the actor says. “Lots of things assail him. He’s absolutely terrified by his mother. He feels pity for his father. But he’s a very resilient chap, which makes him lovable and hugely irritating in equal measure.” And he loves to tell jokes, much to his wife’s chagrin. “She feels like throttling him.”
Backstage Skinny: During the run at the Old Vic, Ritter had to augment his workload with a 30-mile commute to and from his home in Rochester, Kent. Life in New York City agrees with him already: “I live only five minutes away from the theater. It’s fantastic. I love it!”
a.k.a. Sarah, the mad homemaker
Life Before Norman: In addition to frequent stage work with the Royal Shakespeare Company and on the West End, Root is best known in the U.K. for starring in the BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion and for her recurring role in the comedy series All About Me.
Onstage Scoop: As Reg’s uptight and high-strung wife, Sarah, Root milks a flawlessly feathered hairdo and questionable sense of style for maximum anal-retentive effect. “Sarah’s in an unhappy marriage,” she says. “Her children aren’t the easiest things, and she and Reg can’t handle them very well. Both are finding that their lives aren’t really turning out as they wanted them to. So there’s a lot of frustration, which Sarah takes out on other people, bossing them around. Deep down, she doesn’t like that behavior, but she can’t help herself.”
Backstage Skinny: Another Rochester, Kent resident, Root shared the commute with Ritter when performing at the Old Vic. Joining in on the cast’s collective joke about Broadway actors not tolerating “lily-livered lying down,” Root nevertheless says she’s fine with no backstage bed: “I live so close by, I can go home!”