BWW Profile: THE NORMAL HEART from Tony-Winning Play to Emmy-Nominated Film
In anticipation of tonight's live 66th Annual Emmy Award broadcast on NBC, BroadwayWorld has spent the last week profiling the Emmy-nominated performances of some of theatre's biggest stars. Today, we are taking a slightly different approach and highlighting two plays that have been transformed into Emmy-nominated TV movies over the last year. This morning we will chronicle the journey "The Normal Heart" took from stage to screen, and this afternoon we will do the same with "The Trip to Bountiful." If you want to follow along, and interact, with all of BroadwayWorld's Emmy coverage, check out #BWWEmmys on Twitter.
In 1985, Larry Kramer's play "The Normal Heart" debuted at The Public Theatre, and sent shockwaves through the theatrical community. The play was a current, powerful look at the quick-spread of the AIDS epidemic that was ravaging the gay community in New York. In The New York Times, theatre critic Frank Rich said of the initial production, "There can be little doubt that 'The Normal Heart' is the most outspoken play around - or that it speaks up about a subject that justifies its author's unflagging, at times even hysterical, sense of urgency."
The initial Off-Broadway run starred Brad Davis, D. W. Moffett, David Allen Brooks, and Concetta Tomei. Later in the run Tony-winner Joel Grey took over the lead role of Ned Weeks from Davis. This would begin Grey's two-and-a-half decade journey with the play.
In 1993, Barbra Streisand organized a reading of the play to benefit Broadway Cares that featured a cast of stars including Kevin Bacon, John Turturro, Harry Hamlin, Moffett, and Stockard Channing. At one point, Streisand was working on adapting and directing the work for a film that never materialized.
After numerous productions around the globe, and a 1992 sequel, "Destiny of Me," "The Normal Heart" played Broadway for the first time in 2011. Co-directed by Grey and Tony-winner George C. Wolfe, starred Joe Mantello, Ellen Barkin, John Benjamin Hickey, Lee Pace, and Jim Parsons. The production was nominated for five Tony Awards, winning three; Best Revival and Best Featured Actress and Actor (Barkin and Hickey).
The success of this production led directly to the HBO adaptation, with Mantello and Parsons staying with the project. While Parsons continued in the role of Tommy Boatwright, Mantello transitioned from playing Ned Weeks on Broadway to Mickey Marcus on screen. The pair was joined by a hosts of stars including Mark Ruffalo (Ned Weeks), Matt Bomer (Felix Turner), Julia Roberts (Emma Brookner), Taylor Kitsch (Bruce Niles), Alfred Molina (Ben Weeks), and more. The TV movie has been nominated for nine Emmys; Outstanding TV Movie, Outstanding Lead Actor (Ruffalo), Outstanding Lead Actress (Roberts), four Outstanding Supporting Actor nominations (Parsons, Mantello, Molina, and Bomer), Outstanding Directing (Ryan Murphy), and Outstanding Writing (Kramer). Peter Travers of Rolling Stone Magazine said of the film, "Written, directed and acted with a passion that radiates off the screen, 'The Normal Heart' is drama at its most incendiary, a blunt instrument that is also poetic and profound."
I have put together a collection of five videos that feature performances from the 2011 Tony-winning production of "The Normal Heart" and last year's HBO film version. The fourth video also features comments from Cramer, Roberts, and Ruffalo.
Will you be cheering for "The Normal Heart" during tonight's Emmy telecast? Check back with BroadwayWorld's Emmy coverage throughout the day and Tuesday. Let me know your thoughts on the nomination of "The Normal Heart" and the Emmys in general in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt and #BWWEmmys.
The 66th Primetime Emmy Awards telecast will air live coast-to-coast live tonight at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT on NBC from the NOKIA Theater L.A. Live in Los Angeles. And be sure to visit BWW TV for live coverage of the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards.
1) Jojo Whilden | HBO
2) "The Normal Heart" Broadway
3) Jojo Whilden | HBO