Joseph Mantello (born December 27, 1962) is an American actor and director best known for his work on Broadway productions of Wicked, Take Me Out and Assassins, as well as earlier in his career being one of the original Broadway cast of Angels in America.
Early life and education
Mantello was born in Rockford, Illinois, the son of Judy and Richard Mantello, an accountant. His father is of Italian ancestry and his mother is of half Italian descent. He was raised Catholic.
Mantello came to New York from Illinois in 1984 in the midst of the AIDS crisis, having overcome a youthful feeling, he admitted to a reporter in 2013, that "for some reason I was deeply ashamed of the theater early on. I think it had to do with this growing sense I was gay, although I couldn't have put a word to it back then. Where I grew up, boys played sports. When [teacher] Mrs. Windsor wrote in my yearbook, 'Have you ever considered a career in the theater?' it was literally like she wrote the word 'faggot'."
Mantello began his theatrical career as an actor in Keith Curran's Walking the Dead and Paula Vogel's The Baltimore Waltz. On the transition from acting to directing, Mantello said, "I think I've become a better actor since I started directing, although some people might disagree. Since I've been removed from the process I see things that actors fall into. Now there's a part of me that's removed from the process and can stand back."
Mantello directs a variety of theatre works, as The New York Times noted: "Very few American directors - Jack O'Brien and Mike Nichols come to mind - successfully jump genres and styles the way Mr. Mantello does, moving from a two-hander like Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune to the huge canvas of a mainstream musical comedy like Wicked, from downtown stand-up (The Santaland Diaries) to contemporary opera (Dead Man Walking) to political performance art (The Vagina Monologues)."