The Elephant Man is based on the life of John Merrick, who lived in London during the latter part of the nineteenth century. A horribly deformed young man – the victim of rare skin and bone diseases – he becomes the star freak attraction in traveling sideshows. Found abandoned and helpless, he is admitted to London’s prestigious Whitechapel Hospital. Under the care of celebrated young physician Frederick Treves, Merrick is introduced to London society and slowly evolves from an object of pity to an urbane and witty favorite of the aristocracy and literati, only to be denied his ultimate dream – to become a man like any other.
The Elephant Man opened on Broadway at The Booth Theatre on April 22, 1979, starring Philip Anglim, Carole Shelley and Kevin Conway under the direction of Jacob Hofsiss. In 2002, the play was revived at Broadway's Royale Theatre, directed by Sean Mathias and starring Billy Crudup, Kate Burton and Rupert Graves. A second Broadway revival, directed by Scott Ellis, opened at the Booth Theatre in 2015, starring Bradley Cooper, Patricia Clarkson and Alessandro Nivola.