Bernard Pomerance’s play tells the story of a 19th-century British man (Bradley Cooper) whose severe disfigurement made him a star of the traveling freak show circuit. When the renowned Dr. Treves (Alessandro Nivola) takes Joseph Merrick under his care at the London Hospital, he discovers that beneath this shocking exterior lies a brilliant mind and an unshakable faith. Soon all of Victorian high society becomes fascinated by Merrick, especially the beautiful actress Mrs. Kendal (Patricia Clarkson). But with his new life comes new complexity… and as Merrick's condition grows more severe, a "normal" life begins to seem all but impossible.
The play was first produced on Broadway in 1979, winning that year’s Tony Award as Best Play. The production was adapted for television broadcast in 1982. A previous Broadway revival was staged in 2002. This production was first produced and presented in July 2012 by the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts.