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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  LATEST NEW YORK NEWS

at the Biltmore

By David Lefkowitz
Published April 16 2008

  Carole Lombard & Jack Benny in the “To Be or Not To Be” film

Decades before Mel Brooks poked fun at Nazism in The Producers, Jack Benny starred in an even edgier, darker comedy, To Be Or Not To Be, filmed by Ernst Lubitsch during the height of World War II. In 1983, Brooks ended up directing a more high-spirited (and far less well-received) remake, but up till now, the material has yet to reach Broadway.


That will change this fall when the Manhattan Theater Club brings Nick Whitby's adaptation of To Be Or Not To Be to the Biltmore Theater, with previews beginning Sept. 11 for an opening Oct. 2. Casey Nicholaw, who helmed The Drowsy Chaperone, has been tapped to direct.


Set in 1939 Poland, To Be follows a Polish acting troupe headed by a vain, Lunt-like couple (played on film by Benny and Carole Lombard). The Nazis invade and shut down the theater, leading the actors to do their best to help the resistance.


Whitby is best known across the pond for the WWII-set drama, To The Green Fields Beyond, staged by Sam Mendes at the Donmar Warehouse. He's also the screenwriter for a film spoof called Gladatress, about three unlikely heroines who thwart the Roman invasion of Celtic Britain.


Currently, MTC just started Broadway previews of a starry Top Girls revival, while From Up Here and The Four of Us are running at its City Center spaces.



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