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Mantello, Joe (b. 1962)    
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Mantello's next production was also a musical, the 2004 revival of Stephen Sondheim's audacious and powerful Assassins (libretto by John Weidman), which is based on the real life stories of nine successful or would-be murderers of American presidents, such as John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley, and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme.

The musical, of course, does not celebrate its subjects, but instead, as Ben Brantley noted in his review for the New York Times, allows "the frightening title characters" to restate "their demand to be noticed." And under Mantello's direction, Brantley continued, "they [do] so with an eloquence and an intensity that makes a compelling case for a misunderstood show."

Mantello's production of Assassins was originally scheduled for the fall of 2001, but was postponed by the creative team until April 2004 due to the sensitivity of the content in light of the events of September 11, 2001. As an article in the New York Times explained, "It was hard to imagine asking the audience to accept the show's black humor and intermittently satirical tone, let alone sit through the monologue in which the would-be assassin Samuel Byck reveals his plan to 'drop a 747 on the White House and incinerate Dick Nixon.'"

The production received the 2004 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical, and Mantello himself won his second Tony Award, this time for Best Direction of a Musical. He was also nominated for the 2004 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical.

The Normal Heart

In October 2010, Mantello returned to acting in an acclaimed one-night staged reading of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's 1985 landmark play about the AIDS crisis. Mantello, who had not appeared onstage since his work in Angels in America in 1994, played the central character Ned Weeks, an AIDS activist. Mantello said it was a role he had always wanted to play.

The reading was organized as a charity event and raised $150,000 for two caregiver groups, the Actors Fund and Friends in Deed.

The production, which was also a critical success, was remounted in early 2011 for a limited Broadway engagement, again with Mantello in the lead role of Ned Weeks. The production marked the Broadway debut of Kramer's play, which had distinguished productions Off Broadway in 1985 and 2004.

Other Productions

Mantello has had a very prolific directing career.

His Broadway productions also include Neil Simon's Proposals (1997) and the 2005 revival of Simon's The Odd Couple, starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick; the 2001 revival of Noël Coward's Design for Living; the solo stand-up comedy An Evening with Mario Cantone (2002) and the gay comedian's second solo show Laugh Whore (2004), which Mantello also directed for the cable TV network Showtime; the 2005 revival of David Mamet's drama Glengarry Glen Ross and the premiere of Mamet's political comedy November (2008); and the musical 9 to 5 (2009), with music and lyrics by Dolly Parton, based on the 1980 film of the same name.

His Off Broadway productions also include Blue Window (1996) and God's Heart (1997), both written by Craig Lucas; The Santaland Diaries (1996), a one-man, one-act play, which Mantello adapted from the essay by David Sedaris; Jon Robin Baitz's Mizlansky/Zilinsky or "Schmucks" (1998); Lillian (1998), by the British performance artist David Cale; Neil LaBute's Bash: Latter-Day Plays (1999); The Mineola Twins (1999), by Paula Vogel; Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues (1999); Another American: Asking and Telling (1999), by Marc Wolf, which explores sexual politics and the American military, and is based on a series of interviews Wolf conducted with gay, lesbian, and straight military personnel, as well as civil rights lawyers, federal judges, academics, and politicians; Adam Bock's comedy The Receptionist (2007); Blackbird (2007), by David Harrower; and Alexi Kaye Campbell's The Pride (2010), which explores themes of homosexuality in 1958 and 2008.

Mantello currently lives in New York City.

Craig Kaczorowski

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Brantley, Ben. "A Demon Gallery of Glory Hounds." New York Times (April 23, 2004): C1.

Canby, Vincent. "Love! Hits Broadway Running, Like a Broadway Hit." New York Times (February 15, 1995): C1.

Green, Jesse. "Surviving Assassins." New York Times (April 11, 2004): C3.

_____. "Exit, Pursued by a Lawyer." New York Times (January 29, 2006): C5.

Rich, Frank. "Embracing All Possibilities in Art and Life." New York Times (May 5, 1993): C1.

Scanlan, Dick. "Joe Mantello: The Broadway Director-actor on Earning Tony Nominations, Having No Interest in Films, and Working with His Lover, Playwright Jon Robin Baitz." The Advocate (September 20, 1994): 48.

Weber, Bruce. "Couple of the Moment in New York Theater." The New York Times (October 30, 1994): E5.

_____. "Throwing a Curve in a Supposedly Straight Game." The New York Times (September 1, 2002): C2.


    Citation Information
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Mantello, Joe  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2011  
    Date Last Updated February 26, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2011 glbtq, Inc.  


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