A funny thing happened on the way to the Booth Theatre on West 45th Street to see Nathan Lane in “Butley”. No sooner had we gotten out of our hotel, the new London NYK on 54th Street, when we spotted lines of specialty trucks that spell only one thing — a movie company. It was –“American Gangster” starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott. They are in their final month of filming. They had shot all around town including the Statue of Liberty and a chase in Queens and city co-operation was terrific.
It was on to the 8 o’clock curtain of Simon Gray’s “Butley” starring Nathan Lane.” And what a spectacular performance it was. The final curtain brought the audience to a prolonged standing ovation for Lane. He is truly one of the most versatile actors of our time.
A block away at the St. James Theater, Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” continues to run — it was Lane and Matthew Broderick whose classic comedic performances sent this play on is way to B’way history. Now Lane was setting a new standard for the Simon Gray play in which Alan Bates had launched the complex Ben Butley character some thirty years ago. We met with Lane backstage minutes after his bows. He was amazingly joyous and relaxed after the hours of emotional self-destruction…said I understood why he would only play the role in a “limited engagement.” He laughed and said the “limited run” will be decided by the audience…
Meanwhile the producers had decided to take it to B’way after Lane’s run in Boston. It officially opens on Oct.23rd, and we agreed the reviews will tell the tale. Meanwhile, take it from me, this is a rare theatrical experience and not to be missed.
Lane has made no plans to follow “Butley.” The theater is already booked with Vanessa Redgrave to follow after his “Limited Run.” But, of course, anything can happen in showbiz, right?
I asked Nathan about reports he and Matthew Broderick might again reprise their roles in “The Producers,” but he said nope — the legit outings plus the movie were enough and Matthew is readying his own B’way return. Lane does, however, keep in touch with Mel Brooks — who is readying his musicalized “Bride of Frankenstein.” “I think it was good for him to be working on it — during the sad period after Ann Bancroft’s death.
So Lane has no projects on tap — either comedy or drama, stage or film. But whichever he chooses I know it will be something I would want to see.