When An Act of God debuts on Broadway at Studio 54 on May 5, it will be the culmination of a divine series of events that brought this hilarious new comedy to life on stage.
Starring four-time Emmy Award winner Jim Parsons, written by David Javerbaum, 13-time Emmy-winning scribe of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and directed by Tony Award winner Joe Mantello (Wicked), An Act of God comes to Broadway after gaining huge success as a book and in social media.
“I was planning to write this book, The Last Testament: A Memoir by God, where God speaks to us about how He’s been misunderstood,” says Javerbaum. “And the year before it was to come out, I started my first Twitter account to promote it in the voice of God via the handle @TheTweetOfGod. Turns out, God and I had a real knack for tweeting.” His followers proliferated, reaching 1.86 million.
With all the buzz around the book and the Twitter account, it was no surprise that it caught the attention of Broadway. “We thought a while about how to adapt the book into a play,” explains Javerbaum. When all was said and done, it had evolved into a 90-minute comedy where the Almighty and His devoted angels answer some of the questions that have intrigued mankind since Creation. He’s finally arrived… and He’s telling it like it is.
Of course, finding the right fit for a role like God (or the right body to be the vessel through which God takes on Broadway) wasn’t an altogether simple task. “It isn’t easy to search for a good God,” says Javerbaum, with a laugh. Enter Parsons, a renowned actor and a Broadway veteran. As God says in the play, “In the desert I appeared as a burning bush. On Broadway, I appear as Jim Parsons. Know thy audience.”
“Once I read the script, I knew I had to do it,” Parsons exclaims. “What I was most drawn to is how God speaks to a modern audience about life on Earth. As God, I discuss everything from what really happened during Creation up to today’s current pop culture. We can cover such a wide range of topics because David uses comedy so wisely and honestly.”
Of Parsons, Javerbaum says, “He’s naturally very funny and charming. Once you have somebody so inherently likable and good, it can be liberating. Jim allows me to push the boundaries, to be absolutely mischievous, snarky and sarcastic and to play with the audience without alienating their affection.”
Clearly it’s the role of a lifetime. But for Parsons, An Act of God is also his long-awaited opportunity to be directed by Joe Mantello, with whom he co-starred in The Normal Heart. Says Parsons, “I had been badgering him with scripts ever since The Normal Heart. I had almost thrown in the towel. And then he said yes!” For Mantello—who also directed Bette Midler on Broadway in I’ll Eat You Last—it’s a return to something he does particularly well: directing large stars in larger-than-life roles. It’s a match made in heaven.
“I had heard that Jim and Joe were looking to do something as a team, and I was so intrigued by that idea,” declares Javerbaum. “Joe is such an incredible director, and they’re both such collaborative artists and really nice people. Jim is a very amiable presence, and I think God is a big fan of his.”
For audiences who may picture God as a wizened old man with a long grey beard, the ever-youthful Parsons is a refreshing choice to play the Almighty. Perhaps it’ll make us see God in a whole new light. At least it will keep us laughing—and thinking—for a good 90 minutes.
For more on Jim Parsons, see the June issue of IN New York magazine, available at fine hotels throughout New York City.