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Stanley Chase

( b. May 03, 1927 Brooklyn, New York, USA - d. Oct 07, 2014 Santa Monica, California, USA ) Male
Relations: Husband of Dorothy Rice

The Threepenny Opera was a sensation in Europe after its premiere in Berlin in 1928. Yet it did not find an audience in New York until a quarter-century later, when Stanley Chase, a 26-year-old story editor for CBS Television, co-produced an English-language adaptation that changed the landscape of theater in New York.

Mr. Chase went on to become a prolific producer of theater, film and television drama, with credits including a vast roster of popular series like "The Fugitive" and "Peyton Place"; a 1970 film, "Colossus: The Forbin Project," considered a science-fiction classic; and a stint as a movie executive. In the late 1950s, he produced three plays that ran simultaneously on Broadway.

But he was best known as the unknown 20-something who made Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's anticapitalist satire one of the most successful musicals in New York theater history.

Broadway producers far better known than he had wanted to stage it. But Weill's widow, the actress and singer Lotte Lenya, rejected their proposals to muzzle the play's knife-edged social criticism for the Broadway audience, and entrusted the work instead to Mr. Chase, an unwavering devotee who had dreamed of producing The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper in German) since first hearing a 78-r.p.m. recording of the 1928 production as a student at New York University, just a few years before.

With a co-producer, Carmen Capalbo -- a fellow CBS story editor, also in his 20s, who became the show's director -- and a new English-language adaptation by Marc Blitzstein -- Mr. Chase worked for months from a phone booth at Cromwell's, a cafeteria in Manhattan where actors congregated, to raise money for the production.

It opened at the Theater de Lys (now the Lucille Lortel Theater) in Greenwich Village on March 10, 1954. It closed after 96 standing-room-only performances (another show had already been booked in the theater), but returned for an open engagement in 1955 that lasted six years. By the time it closed in 1961, after 2,611 performances, it had become the first smash hit in Off Broadway history.

It had also established the viability of Off Broadway theater itself, with its smaller stages and lower costs, as an incubator of talent and a lodestar of the American theater. In 1956, the American Theater Wing broke with tradition to give an award for "distinguished Off Broadway production" to The Threepenny Opera, making it the first Off Broadway show to receive a Tony.

Under the production model Mr. Chase and Mr. Capalbo negotiated with Actors' Equity, actors hired for The Threepenny Opera received $5 a week for rehearsals and $25 a week for performances. The pay scale inspired turnover. Including the original cast -- which featured Ms. Lenya, Charlotte Rae, Bea Arthur and John Astin -- there were some 700 actors employed in the play's 20 roles in its run, most of them unknown at the time. Among them were Edward Asner, Leonard Nimoy, Carroll O'Connor, Jerry Orbach, Jerry Stiller, Estelle Parsons and Viveca Lindfors.

Mr. Chase later produced several plays on Broadway, including Graham Greene's The Potting Shed, William Saroyan's The Cave Dwellers and the Broadway premiere of Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, which at one point in 1957 were all running simultaneously. He moved to Hollywood in the mid-1960s, where he produced installments of "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater," including an adaptation of "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich," Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's classic novella about life in the gulag.

Source: The New York Times obituary

ProductionsDate of Productions
The Cave Dwellers
[Play, Original]
  • Produced by Stanley Chase
Oct 19, 1957 - Jan 11, 1958
A Moon for the Misbegotten
[Play, Drama, Original]
  • Produced by Stanley Chase
May 02, 1957 - Jun 29, 1957
The Potting Shed
[Play, Original]
  • Produced by Stanley Chase
Jan 29, 1957 - Jun 01, 1957
Threepenny Opera
[Musical, Drama, Revival]
  • Produced by Stanley Chase
Sep 20, 1955 - Dec 17, 1961
Threepenny Opera
[Musical, Drama, Operetta, Revival]
  • Produced by Stanley Chase
Mar 10, 1954 - May 30, 1954
1957 Tony Award® Best Play
The Potting Shed [nominee]
Produced by Stanley Chase
1956 Tony Award® Special Award
winner Threepenny Opera [recipient]
Produced by Stanley Chase
Find out where Stanley Chase and are credited together