Manhattan Theatre Club's TO BE OR NOT TO BE Opens Tonight 10/14

By: Oct. 14, 2008
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The Manhattan Theatre Club (Lynne Meadow, Artistic Director; Barry Grove, Executive Producer) world premiere production of Nick Whitby's 'To Be or Not To Be' officially opens on Broadway tonight, Tuesday October 14th.

The play, based on the 1942 motion picture of the same name is directed by three-time Tony Award nominee Casey Nicholaw ('The Drowsy Chaperone,' 'Monty Python's Spamalot').

The production features Peter Benson ('The Pajama Game'), Robert Dorfman ('The Drowsy Chaperone'), Steve Kazee ('Monty Python's Spamalot'), Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Jan Maxwell ('Coram Boy,' 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'), Peter Maloney ('Almost An Evening,' 'Dinner At Eight'), Michael McCarty ('Mary Poppins'), two-time Obie Award winner Kristine Nielsen ('Les Liaisons Dangereuses,' MTC's 'Our Leading Lady'), Brandon Perler (Broadway debut), David Rasche ('Burn After Reading,' MTC's 'Regret's Only') Rocco Sisto ('Iphigenia 2.0'), Jimmy Smagula ('Damn Yankees' at Encores!), and Marina Squerciati (MTC's 'Beauty of the Father').

'To Be or Not To Be' is the first production of Manhattan Theatre Club's 2008-2009 season. The limited engagement is playing at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street).

At the Polski Theatre in 1939 Warsaw, Josef (David Rasche) and Maria Tura (Jan Maxwell) are about to open yet another smash with their theatrical troupe. As the German invasion gets underway, the theatre is closed by the censors, forcing the troupe to face desperate times. But when a handsome young bomber pilot enlists their help to catch a spy, what is a group of actors to do? This hilarious black comedy is an ingenious commentary on the World War II era and an inspired tribute to the timeless joys of the theatre.

The creative team for 'To Be or Not To Be' includes: Anna Louizos (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design), Darron L West (sound design), Wendall and Zak (projection design), Josh Marquette (hair design), and David Caparelliotis (casting).

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Producer Barry Grove, MTC has become one of the country's most prominent and prestigious theatre companies. MTC productions have earned a total of 16 Tony Awards and five Pulitzer Prizes, an accomplishment unparalleled by a New York theatrical institution. Renowned MTC productions include 'Top Girls'; 'From Up Here'; 'Come Back, Little Sheba'; 'The Receptionist'; 'LoveMusik'; 'Blackbird'; 'Translations'; 'Shining City'; 'Rabbit Hole'; 'Doubt'; 'Proof'; 'Kimberly Akimbo'; 'The Tale of the Allergist's Wife'; 'Love! Valour! Compassion!'; 'Sylvia'; 'Four Dogs and a Bone'; 'Putting It Together'; 'Lips Together, Teeth Apart'; 'Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune'; 'Crimes of the Heart'; and 'Ain't Misbehavin'.' 

This season, MTC's Broadway stage was renamed the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street). The landmarked theatre has been the institution's home on Broadway since 2003 and was rehabilitated by MTC following a two-year, $35 million capital campaign. In addition, MTC operates two theatres at New York City Center (131 West 55th Street), its Off-Broadway home since 1984.  

Tickets range in price from $56.50-$96.50. Student rush tickets are available the day of the performance at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre box office for $26.50.  Additionally, you can subscribe to MTC by calling (212) 399-3030, Monday - Thursday, noon - 6 PM and Friday, 10 AM - 2 PM, with a major credit card. Subscriptions are available online at

'To Be or Not To Be' showtimes are as follows, Tuesday at 7 PM, Wednesday through Saturday at 8 PM, and Sunday at 7 PM, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM.

Nick Whitby (Playwright). Nick Whitby's first play 'Dirty Dishes' was performed at the Edinburgh festival and afterwards in over twenty productions across Europe. He has since worked extensively in film and TV in England, including contributing sketches for Channel 4's Emmy Award winning series 'Smack the Pony,' and most recently the drama documentary 'Last Flight to Kuwait' for the BBC. He returned to writing plays in 2000 with 'To The Green Fields Beyond,' directed by Sam Mendes at the Donmar, London. He lives in Cornwall in the west of England from where he runs his own touring theatre company True West.

Casey Nicholaw (Director) received 2006 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for his work on 'The Drowsy Chaperone' and 2005 Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Choreography for 'Monty Python's Spamalot.' Additional New York credits include direction and choreography for 'Follies' (Encores!); choreography for 'Bye, Bye, Birdie' (Encores!); 'Candide' (NY Philharmonic, 'PBS Great Performances'); 'South Pacific' (Carnegie Hall, 'PBS Great Performances'); musical staging for 'Can-Can' (Encores!); 'Sinatra: His Voice. His World. His Way' (Radio City Music Hall). Other choreography: 'Lucky Duck' (Old Globe), 'The Road to Hollywood' (Goodspeed). His next project is directing and choreographing Minsky's 'a new musical' premiering at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles in January.

Peter Benson (Rowicz). Broadway: 'The Pajama Game' (Prez; Outer Critics Circle Nomination: Outstanding Featured Actor), 'Wonderful Town' (Frank Lippencot), Roundabout Theatre Co. production of 'Cabaret' at Studio 54, Wendy Wasserstein's 'An American Daughter' (Billy Robbins), 'Little Me' (multiple roles), and 'State Fair' (Harry). Off-Broadway: 'The Maddening Truth' (Keen Co.) 'The New Moon' (Encores!), Tina Howe's 'Birth and Afterbirth' (Atlantic Theatre Co.) 'The Country Club' (The Drama Dept.). On television Mr. Benson has guest starred on 'Law & Order,' 'Ed,' 'Strangers with Candy,' 'Law & Order: CI,' and appeared as a regular on HBO's 'OZ' and ABC's 'Hi Honey I'm Home.'

Robert Dorfman (Grunberg/ Magician) previously worked with director Casey Nicholaw on the national tour of 'The Drowsy Chaperone.' He also appeared in the Broadway productions of 'The Lion King' under director Julie Taymor and 'Social Security' under director Mike Nichols. His Off-Broadway credits include: 'Hamlet' (CSC), 'The Wax' (Playwrights Horizons), 'The Dybbuk' (The Public), 'The Lisbon Traviata' (MTC), the original production of Larry Kramer's 'The Normal Heart' (The Public), and 'Two Gentleman of Verona' (Delacorte). Dorfman has appeared in Julie Taymor's film 'Fool's Fire' as well as 'It Could Happen To You' and 'Vampire's Kiss.' His television credits include: 'Madigan Men,' 'Diagnosis Murder,' and 'Sabrina, The Teenage Witch.'

Steve Kazee (Sobinsky) will be making his MTC debut in the production. Kazee recently appeared as Starbuck in the Roundabout Theatre Co. production of '110 in the Shade.' Other Broadway credits include 'Monty Python's Spamalot' as Sir Lancelot and Edward Albee's 'Seascape.' Regionally, Kazee appeared in 'The Subject Was Roses'  (Kennedy Center), where he was nominated for a Helen Hayes Award for Best Actor alongside Bill Pullman and Judith Ivey. Off-Broadway: 'As You Like It' (NYSF). TV/Film: guest stars on 'NCIS' (CBS), 'NUMB3RS' (CBS), 'Medium' (NBC), 'Conviction' (NBC), and 'As the World Turns' (CBS). Steve received his MFA in Acting from the prestigious NYU Tisch Graduate Acting Program. Proud member of Actors' Equity Association since 2005.

Peter Maloney (Dowasz) Broadway: 'Dinner at Eight,' 'Arcadia,' 'Carousel,' 'Six Degrees of Separation,' 'Abe Lincoln in Illinois,' 'Our Town' (Lincoln Center Theater); 'Judgment at Nuremberg,' 'Stanley,' 'Poor Murderer,' 'Hughie.' Off Broadway: 'Almost an Evening,' 'Trumpery,' 'The Voysey Inheritance,' 'The Room,' 'The Water Engine,' 'Mr. Happiness,' 'The Duck Variations,' 'The Dadshuttle' (Atlantic Theater). Film: 47 films including 'K-Pax,' 'Boiler Room,' 'Requiem for a Dream,' 'The Crucible,' 'JFK,' 'Washington Square.' Televison: Uncle Red on 'Rescue Me.' Writer: 'Leash' (part of his Abu Ghraib Triptych published by Applause Books as one of Best American Short Plays. His adaptation of Machiavelli's 'Mandragola' will soon be published by Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. Mr. Maloney, a member of Ensemble Studio Theater and the Actors Studio, is a Fox Foundation Fellow.

Jan Maxwell (Maria) most recently appeared in Scenes From 'An Execution' with the Potomac Theatre Project presented at Atlantic Theatre's Stage 2. Previously with PTP, she appeared in 'The castle' by Howard Barker (Washington, DC), and 'Camille' by Alexandre Dumas (Olney Theatre Center). Other credits include Broadway: 'Coram Boy' (Tony and Drama Desk nominations), 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' (Drama Desk Award, Tony nomination), 'Sixteen Wounded' (Drama Desk nomination), 'A Doll's House,' 'The Sound of Music,' 'The Dinner Party,' 'Dancing At Lughnasa,' and 'City of Angels.'  Off-Broadway: 'Substitution,' 'Entertaining Mr. Sloane' (Drama Desk nomination), 'The Bald Soprano' (Atlantic Theatre), 'Opening Doors' (Carnegie Hall), Jules Feiffer's 'A Bad Friend' (Lincoln Center), Israel Horovitz's 'My Old Lady' (Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk nomination), Alan Ayckbourn's 'House and Garden' (MTC). Television: 'Law & Order' (NBC), 'AIDS - Changing the Rules' (PBS).

Michael McCarty (Colonel Erhard). Broadway: 'Mary Poppins,' Royal National Theatre's 'Oklahoma!,' '42nd Street,' 'Sweeney Todd,' 'Big River,' 'Teddy & Alice,' 'Oliver!,' 'Amadeus,' 'King of Hearts,' 'Dirty Linen,' and 'Newfoundland.' Tours: 'Pippin,' '1776,' 'Greater Tuna.' LA: 'Ragtime,' 'Grand Hotel.' Films: A dozen, including Robert Redford's 'Legend of Bagger Vance.' TV: Guest star of over 50 shows. Recent regional: Big Daddy in 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof' (St. Louis Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse), Sir Toby in 'Twelfth Night' (Guthrie Theatre).

Kristine Nielsen (Anna). Broadway: 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses,' 'A Streetcar Named Desire' (Roundabout), 'Spring Awakening,' 'The Green Bird,' 'Jackie: An American Life,' 'The Iceman Cometh.'  Off-Broadway: 'Die Mommie, Die!' (New World Stages); 'Our Leading Lady,' 'Based on a Totally True Story,' 'Wonder of the World' (Manhattan Theatre Club); 'Miss Witherspoon,' 'Betty's Summer Vacation' (Obie Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nomination) at Playwrights Horizons; 'Machinal,' 'Dog Opera' (Obie Award) at the Public. Film: 'The Savages,' 'Small Time Crooks.'  TV: 'Conviction,' 'Law & Order: CI,' 'Law & Order.' Graduate of Yale School of Drama.

Brandon Perler (Young Grunberg) is thrilled to be making his Broadway debut in 'To Be or Not To Be.' Other credits include 'Saturday Night Live,' various national network commercials, and numerous voice-overs. 

David Rasche (Josef) has appeared in several recent MTC productions including 'Regrets Only,' 'Moonlight and Magnolias,' 'Five By Tenn,' and 'Last Dance.' This fall, Rasche will be seen in the Coen Brothers' newest film 'Burn After Reading' opposite Brad Pitt and George Clooney. He will also be seen in the recently wrapped BBC Films production of 'In The Loop' alongside James Gandolfini, Anna Chlumsky, and Steve Coogan and the recently wrapped independent feature film 'Blue Eyes' in which he plays the title role. He most recently appeared in CSC's acclaimed production of 'The Seagull' opposite Alan Cumming and Dianne Wiest for which Rasche received the 2008 Richard Seff Award. He also appeared in the Westport Country Playhouse's production of Arthur Miller's 1976 drama, 'The Archbishop's Ceiling' (dir. Gregory Mosher). Last year, he also performed in 'Lovely Day' (dir. Blair Brown) and 'Elvis and Juliet' with Fred Willard. Recent films include 'Sentinel,' with Michael Douglas and Kim Basinger, 'United 93,' and Clint Eastwood's 'Flags of our Fathers.'

Rocco Sisto (Silewsky/ Magician's Assistant). Broadway: 'Amadeus,' 'A Month in the Country' (RTC), 'The Comedy of Errors' (LCT). Recent Off-Broadway: 'The Palace of the End' (Epic Theatre Ensemble), 'Iphigenia 2.0' (Signature Theatre). Regional theatre credits include ACT Seattle and Seattle Rep., Mark Taper (LA), The Guthrie, Dallas Theatre Center, Center Stage (Baltimore), among others. Films include: 'Donnie Brasco,' 'Frequency,' 'Eraser,' 'Illuminata,' 'Carlito's Way' and the cult hit 'The American Astronaut.' Television: 'The Sopranos,' 'Law & Order,' 'Law & Order: C.I.,' 'Homicide,' 'C.S.I.,' 'Close to Home,' 'Star Trek,' 'T.N.G.,' 'Alias,' 'N.Y.P.D. Blue,' and 'J.A.G.' Founding member Shakespeare & Co. Awards: OBIE for 'The Winter's Tale' (Public Theatre) OBIE and Drama Desk nomination and Drama League Award for 'Quills' (N.Y.T.W.) He holds an MFA from the NYU Graduate Acting Program.

Jimmy Smagula (Walowski/ Schweinlich) most recently was seen in the Encores! production of 'Damn Yankees.' He previously appeared as Piangi both on Broadway and in the national tour of 'The Phantom of the Opera.' Other Broadway: 'Man of La Mancha' (2002 revival original company), 'The Full Monty' (original company). Television: Bravo's 'The It Factor,' 'The Sopranos,' 'The Rosie O'Donnell Show,' 'The Job,' 'Law & Order: SVU,' numerous commercials. Film: 'The Island,' 'The Producers: The Movie Musical.' Regional theatre: Beadle Bamford in 'Sweeney Todd' with Kelsey Grammer and Christine Baranski in Los Angeles and at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA; 'Children of Eden' and 'Man of La Mancha' (Paper Mill Playhouse); 'The Full Monty' (Old Globe). Recordings: 'Man of La Mancha,' 'The Full Monty,' 'Children of Eden,' 'Jamie DeRoy and Friends.'

Marina Squerciati (Eva). Off-Broadway: 'Beauty of the Father,' directed by Michael Greif at Manhattan Theatre Club. She was also in: 'The Toad Poems' (The SoHo Playhouse), 'Perfect Harmony' (Shubert Theatre), 'Ride' (WHAT), 'The Underpants' (Capital Rep), 'The Winter's Tale' (Williamstown Theatre Festival/dir. Darko Tresnjak), 'Demon at the Door' (Ensemble Studio Theatre), 'Boston Marriage' (Adirondack Theatre Festival), 'Stay,' 'Illusion' (Abingdon Theatre), 'The Song of Grendelyn' (Alice's Fourth Floor Theatre), 'Flyers and Other Tales' (Jewel Box Theatre). Film: 'Aimless' (Southshore Entertainment), and 'The Nutcracker,' directed by Emile Ardolino. TV: 'Guiding Light,' 'Domestic Bliss' (Pilot), 'Empty Nest' (NBC). Squerciati is a graduate of Northwestern University.

Jan Maxwell as Maria and David Rasche as Josef