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Norbert Leo Butz

August 1, 2007

By Roger B. Harris

Well we know his death has not been greatly exaggerated this time. But Is He Dead?, a new comedy by Mark Twain adapted by David Ives and starring Norbert Leo Butz is headed to Broadway's Lyceum Theatre in November

Mark Twain's been dead for 97 years, but an unpublished comedy of his, rediscovered in 2002, will begin previews at the Lyceum on November 8, with an official opening on November 29. The comedy has been adapted by David Ives and will be directed by Tony Award winner Michael Blakemore. It will star Tony Award winner Norbert Leo Butz. Additional casting will be disclosed shortly.

Twain's comedy was inspired by the posthumous bidding war that took place between the United States and France over Jean-Francois Millet's painting The Angelus. The play's about a group of poor artists who stage the death of their mentor to drive up the price of his paintings. But is he really dead?

Butz will play Jean-Francois Millet. It is his first return to Broadway since walking off with the 2005 Tony for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. He's also been in Wicked, Thou Shalt Not, Rent and The Last Five Years, among others.

Blakemore is the only director who has won Tony Awards for a play, Copenhagen and a musical, Kiss Me Kate, in the same year.Other plays he's directed include The Life, Joe Egg, City of Angels, Lettice and Lovage, Noises Off, Deuce and Democracy.

David Ives' earlier works include Polish Joke and All in the Timing. He has adapted the books of 18 classic musicals for presentation in the City Center Encores! series.

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