Director to announce first theater project

Spike Lee will announce his first major theater project in a press conference scheduled for Thursday morning at the Palace Theater.

While details have not yet been confirmed, the production is believed to be a Broadway revival of Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski’s WWII comedy-drama “Stalag 17,” a mystery set in a POW camp and centering on a sergeant suspected of being a Nazi spy.

The play has not been seen on Broadway since its 1951 premiere, which ran for 472 performances and won a Tony for director Jose Ferrer. William Holden was awarded a best actor Oscar for Billy Wilder’s popular 1953 screen version.

Producer on the Lee project is Michael Abbott, whose last Broadway credit was the Jerome Lawrence-Robert E. Lee play “The Incomparable Max,” which had a short run in 1971.

Rialto insiders are skeptical about the idea of a “Stalag 17″ revival pairing an inexperienced stage director with material that shows no obvious connection to his body of film work. Some pundits are voicing their suspicion that Thursday’s splashy announcement is designed to attract other investors to a production not yet fully formed.

The tone of Bevan and Trzcinski’s play is significantly different, but R.C. Sherriff’s WWI bunker drama “Journey’s End” saw a disastrous commercial run last season despite stellar reviews, pointing to a Broadway climate not exactly receptive to war themes.

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