Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Butz to Star in Twain's 'Is He Dead?;' Blakemore Directs

Is He Dead?, a new comedy by master American novelist and satirist Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives, directed by two-time Tony Award winner Michael Blakemore, and starring Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz, will open on November 29, 2007 at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street).  Previews begin November 8.

"Written in 1898, Is He Dead? remained unpublished until it was rediscovered in 2002 by noted Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin," state press materials.  "Inspired by the posthumous bidding war that broke out between the United States and France over Jean-Francois Millet's painting The Angelus, Is He Dead? is a fast-paced comedy about a group of poor artists who stage the death of their mentor to drive up the price of his paintings.  In order for the scheme to succeed, the artists hatch various hilarious plots involving cross-dressing, a full-scale fake funeral, lovers' deceptions, and much more."

Norbert Leo Butz, making his first Broadway appearance since winning the 2005 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, stars as Jean-Francois Millet, the struggling painter whose work skyrockets in value when he is believed to be dead.  Additional casting will be announced shortly.

Ives (Adaptor) was born in Chicago and educated at Yale School of Drama. A former Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in playwriting, he is probably 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.

Blakemore (Director) is the only director ever to win 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. In England, he was Laurence Olivier's associate at The National Theatre and directed him in Long Day's Journey into Night. For the RSC, he directed Privates on Parade (also the film).  Among the most recent of his many West End successes was Three Sisters.  He has written and directed two films, Country Life and A Personal History of the Australian Surf, and his novel, Next Season (1968), is still in print.  His memoir, Arguments with England, was recently published.

Butz 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) andRent (original cast, Broadway debut). Off-Broadway, he has been seen in Buicks (Drama Desk nomination, Outstanding Actor in a Play), The Last Five Years (Drama Desk, Lucille Lortel nominations, Outstanding Actor in a Musical; Drama League Award, Outstanding Actor in a Musical), Juno and the Paycock (Roundabout), and Saved (Theatre for a New Audience). He has extensive regional theatre, film and TV credits.

The play will be produced on Broadway by Bob Boyett, Roger Berlind, and Daryl Roth.

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.

Photo of Norbert Leo Butz by Ben Strothmann

Related Articles

NOS Dance

More Hot Stories For You