Pittu, Jennings, McGrath, Gambatese Will Ask, Is He Dead?, on Broadway

By Kenneth Jones
27 Aug 2007

Jenn Gambatese
Jenn Gambatese

Full casting has been announced for the Broadway production of Is He Dead?, an unearthed comedy by the late Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives and directed by Michael Blakemore.

Joining previously announced Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz in the comedy about a community of 19th-century artists will be Jeremy Bobb (Translations), Marylouise Burke (Into the Woods), Patricia Conolly (Enchanted April), Jenn Gambatese (Tarzan), Tony Award nominee Byron Jennings (Inherit the Wind), Tony Award nominee Michael McGrath (Spamalot), four-time Tony Award nominee John McMartin (Grey Gardens), Tony Award nominee David Pittu (LoveMusik), Bridget Regan and Tom Alan Robbins (The Lion King).

Previews for the world premiere production begin Nov. 8 toward a Nov. 29 opening at the Lyceum Theatre.

According to the producers, "In this newly discovered Mark Twain comedy, the original master of American humor dishes out a sly critique of the art world with acerbic wit and social commentary well ahead of his time. Is He Dead? is a fast-paced play about a struggling artist who stages his own death to drive up the price of his paintings. As the riotous scheme unfolds, Twain poses daring questions about fame, greed and the value of art, and pokes his signature, mischievous fun at everyone involved."



Written in 1898, Is He Dead? remained unpublished until it was rediscovered in 2002 by noted Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin.

Is He Dead? will be produced on Broadway by Bob Boyett, Roger Berlind, Daryl Roth, Jane Bergere, Bob Bartner and O'Boyle-Stevens.

The design team includes scenic design by Tony Award nominee Peter J. Davison, costume design by two-time Tony Award winner Martin Pakledinaz, and lighting design by Tony Award winner Peter Kaczorowski.

Single ticket and performance schedule will be announced in the coming weeks.

David Ives was born in Chicago and educated at Yale School of Drama. A former Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in playwriting, he is best known for his evening of one-act comedies called All in the Timing. His short plays are collected in two anthologies, All in the Timing (Vintage) and Time Flies (Grove). His full-length theatre works are available in "Polish Joke and Other Plays" (Grove). He is also the author of two young-adult novels, "Monsieur Eek" and "Scrib." Most recently, he translated Georges Feydeau's classic French farce A Flea in Her Ear and Yasmina Reza's A Spanish Play. He has adapted the books of 18 classic musicals for presentation in the City Center Encores! series.

Director Blakemore won Tony Awards for both a play, Copenhagen, and a musical, Kiss Me, Kate, in the same year. Other accolades include three Drama Desk Awards and Tony nominations for Joe Egg, Noises Off, City of Angels, Lettice and Lovage and The Life. He was most recently represented on Broadway with Deuce; and prior to that, the critically acclaimed Democracy, which he first staged for the National Theatre of Great Britain.

Norbert Leo Butz (who will play Jean-Francois Millet and Widow Daisy Tillou in this "new" comedy) received the 2005 Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Drama League Awards for his performance as Freddy Benson in the Broadway musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He co-starred in Wicked on Broadway where he created the role of Fiyero. Other Broadway credits include Thou Shalt Not (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics nominations, Best Featured Actor in a Musical) and Rent (original cast, Broadway debut).