Spike Lee to Direct Stalag 17 Revival
By Andrew Gans
Acclaimed film director Spike Lee plans to direct a Broadway revival of Stalag 17 in early 2008, according to a June 27 press statement.
The play, penned by former prisoners of war Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski, is set in December 1944 in a barrack of Stalag 17 in Germany during the Second World War. The original Broadway production officially opened May 8, 1951, and played 472 performances at the 48th Street Theatre before closing June 21, 1952. The cast featured John Ericson as Sefton and Mark Roberts as Dunbar.
The 1953 film, directed by Billy Wilder, cast William Holden as Sefton and Don Taylor as Lt. Dunbar with Otto Preminger as Col. Von Scherbach.
Stalag 17, according to press notes, "is a drama about a group of American airmen in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. At Stalag 17, while the inmates spend their waking hours circumventing the boredom of prison life, at night, they attempt to arrange escapes. Lightened by the antics of these restless prisoners, the play depicts the conflicts among these volatile and desperate men."
The war-themed drama will mark the Broadway bow for Lee, whose many films include "She's Gotta Have It," "School Daze," "Do the Right Thing," "Malcolm X" and "Jungle Fever." In a statement Lee said, "I'm very happy to get the opportunity to make my first foray into the theatre and Broadway. I've never been one to put limits on my art. I was too young to see the play but I've seen the movie numerous times and Billy Wilder is one of my favorite directors. This production will have a contemporary look, yet still stay true to the period and the original play."
Michael Abbott will produce the Broadway revival. Abbott was a 21-year-old producer when Stalag 17 made its premiere at Off-Broadway's Lambs Club before transferring to Broadway. Abbott said in a statement, "Producing Stalag 17 once again on stage, after so many years, is a labor of love for me. I feel audiences of all generations will react strongly to the humor, the mystery and the suspense of the show. Its themes of laughter through adversity and the quest for freedom are timeless. And Spike will add an extraordinary new dimension to this relevant new production. The script essentially remains the same, but Spike's magic will bring Stalag 17 into the present."
Playwright Bevan added, "I am thrilled that you signed Spike Lee as director -- a perfect fit for our Stalag 17 property. The unspoken theme of Stalag 17 is that these POWs, the first of many, served at the forefront of saving Western civilization. Bravo, Bravo Spike!"
A theatre, casting and design team will be announced at a later date.
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