Bradley Cooper Spills the Beans on Elephant Man
Headed for Broadway in the Fall of 2013
By: Charles Giuliano - 08/17/2012
Director Scott Ellis with Bradley Cooper and Patricia Clarkson in Williamstown this summer. Giuliano photos.
Clarkson and Cooper were stunning in their roles.
Cooper has every reason to smile.
The historical James (John) Merrick.
The before and after on stage transformation of Cooper into the Elephant Man. T Charles Erickson photos courtesy of WTF.
It is likely that artistic director Jenny Gersten’s phone will be ringing off the hook during the off season. Giuliano photo.
If you missed Bradley Cooper and Patricia Clarkson co-starring in a sold out run of Elephant Man at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, gosh darn shucks, then, be still dear heart, you’ll get another shot at it.
On Broadway for a limited run in the Fall of 2013.
During a film premiere Cooper was heard to say “We’re going to try to do it on Broadway next fall. We’re going to try to nail it down and do a limited run.” That was told to someone who told someone. It went viral on Facebook.
In a release Jenny Gersten, Artistic Director of the Williamstown Theatre Festival said “We’re thrilled that Bradley wants to continue exploring the role of John Merrick. The entire production of The Elephant Man at Williamstown was definitely a season highlight, although there is nothing confirmed beyond that at this point.” She told the Huffington Post “When [Cooper] was here in the production, he said, ‘I really am interested in this play. I want to keep doing it.’”
The role is physically demanding as, without benefit of prosthesis or makeup, Cooper astonished audiences by twisting and contorting himself into a simulacrum of the hideously deformed, utterly fascinating, 19th century freak show phenomenon, Joseph Merrick.
Cooper, mostly known for cash cow comedies, proved to be a phenomenal actor. This would not be his first appearance on Broadway, but a highpoint of his career. In a limited run, hopefully again with Clarkson, it will be a boffo bonanza.
During a recent sit down with Gersten she emphasized that it is not the mandate for WTF to prepare shows for Broadway or Off Broadway. The hope is to offer opportunities for actors to experiment and develop new works. If some shows, like this season’s new musical Far From Heaven do move to New York, well, all the better. But the greater intention is to do serious and compelling work.
“I think the reason people come here, no offense, is to be protected from the critics in a lot of ways” She said. “And to take chances in a lot of what they can’t do in other places where the spotlight is a lot brighter. If that makes sense.”
I asked Jenny what it takes to lure a Hollywood star like Cooper to WTF?
“It wasn’t me. He wanted to come here. I get no credit for that.” She said. “They (stars) all came here for two reasons in my opinion. The projects, the material, the people who were working on the shows with them. And the fact that they love to come to Williamstown.”
Part of that comfort zone is allowing actors some privacy. “I don’t think Bradley would have done Elephant Man here if the national press was invited. That was a specific agreement we had with the author actually,” Gersten said.
In the intimate Nikos Stage, there were fewer seats available than on the Main Stage. That exacerbated the feeding frenzy for tickets. Curiously, for a production of A Month in the Country the first three rows of seats were removed to build a thrust stage and create an intimate atmosphere. Logically, we asked Gersten why she didn’t switch the productions. Surely Elephant Man would have sold out the larger space while ticket sales for A Month in the Country were ‘moderate.’
“Perhaps,” she said, “it wasn’t what that production wanted artistically. They wanted a chamber piece. It wouldn’t have felt like a chamber piece on the Main Stage.”
While a restaging of Elephant Man on Broadway will surely be in a smaller house it is not likely to be the ‘chamber piece’ which we experienced at WTF.
There will be more seats but they are likely to go fast.
It may not be Gersten’s intention to preview plays for Broadway, but kudos all around for this one. It’s a nice hook when she’s on the phone booking next summer’s program. You bet a lot of stars and agents will be returning her calls.