By James Cooper
Lane has a long and distinguished career as a comic actor in musicals and plays, and his role in “The Nance,” to some extent, reflects his own history, according to an interview in The New York Times. Lane admits that growing up gay was very hard for him, and Douglas Carter Beane’s play describes the stereotypically gay performer in vaudeville called the “nance,” which is usually played by a straight man.
The show is now in previews at the Lyceum Theater and has not yet been reviewed. The show opens April 15.
Photos: The 16th Annual Tony Awards
Lane plays Chauncey Miles, a nance who is actually gay, although he can’t admit that in the 1930s when this play takes place. This is much like Lane’s problems in growing up gay. He said in The New York Times article, “There were no rules guiding me or Chauncey — no rules about relationships or monogamy or emotional intimacy. And that can make life difficult.”
Audiences are sure to love Lane’s performance as a man torn between what he wants and what society allows him to do. They will sympathize with his history while seeing him performing Chauncey’s.
Since the show is about vaudeville, it contains some musical numbers as well, composed by Glen Kelley, with an orchestra conducted by David Gursky. This puts Lane right in his element, where he is sure to excel.
Lane has such charisma and comic performing chops that he was able to save a weekly reviewed production of “The Addams Family” and make it a profitable show. In fact, the Times’ Ben Brantley noted that:
“Lane, complete with a deliciously phony Spanish accent, is the hardest working actor on Broadway. Whatever they are paying him – and I hope it is a lot – he’s worth the price. The actor possesses a theatrical gusto that makes the musical move whenever he is on stage”
Nathan Lane has performed in many of Terrence McNally’s plays including “The Lisbon Traviata,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and “Lips Together, Teeth Apart,” which present some of the problems of gay men in today’s society. He also performed as Pseudolus in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” in which he played an actual nance-type character.
He also played a similar gay character in “The Birdcage” and received a Tony for his portrayal of Max Bialystock in “The Producers.” He also is known for his serious dramatic work, playing opposite Bill Irwin in “Waiting for Godot,” and played Hickey in Chicago’s Goodman Theater production of “The Iceman Cometh.”
Lane received Tonys for his performance in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and in “The Producers,” and was nominated for his performance as Sky Masterson in “Guys and Dolls.” He received Drama Desk awards for “The Lisbon Traviata,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Love! Valour! Compassion!,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “The Producers.” Additionally, Lane received Obie Awards for “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and an Olivier Award for “The Producers.”
We unhesitatingly predict another set of distinguished awards for Lane in Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Nance” and believe he has a significant chance at receiving the Tony for this performance.
James Cooper is a freelance writer covering all things Theater and Fairfield County. His work can be found on Examiner.com.