The company's artistic director, Todd Haimes, announced the casting decision Thursday.
To be directed by Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes, the play will begin previews March 22. It will open in April at the American Airlines Theatre. The limited engagement will play through June 2, 2013.
The full cast and design team will be announced soon, the show's producers said.
"'The Big Knife' is well overdue for a revival -- it's written by one of our greatest American playwrights with an array of great roles for actors to sink their teeth into," Haimes said in a statement. "I love the language Odets uses in 'The Big Knife' and how he digs into the dark side of Old Hollywood. This story has all of the [glamour] we associate with that time and place."
This is the first new Broadway production of "The Big Knife" since it premiered on Broadway in 1949, directed by Lee Strasberg.
Cannavale is best known for his performances on stage in "The Mother****** with the Hat," "Mauritius" and "Hurlyburly," as well as in the films "Shall We Dance?" and "The Station Agent."