Will the Tonys please stop snubbing Nathan Lane?
Yes, that Nathan Lane. The Nathan Lane who already has two Tonys to his credit, for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” in 1997 and “The Producers” in 2002, the last year that he managed to nab a Tony nom.
The much-lauded Broadway star is not a likely candidate for awards’ victimhood, but on Tony noms, he once again found himself stuck without a citation in Gethsemane’s greenroom. It’s as if he has to do more penance for one of legit’s most amazing track records ever: Since “The Producers,” Lane has graced almost every Broadway season with a star turn in yet another new production, whether it be “The Frogs,” “The Odd Couple,” “Butley,” “November,” “Waiting for Godot” or now “The Addams Family.”
Somehow, none of these shows has put Lane back in Tony competition.
If producers and auds don’t take Lane for granted (his commercial productions invariably recoup), it’s clear the Tonys do, having ignored for nearly a decade an iconic talent who belongs in the same musical-comedy pantheon as Ethel Merman, Zero Mostel, Gwen Verdon and the critics’ current goddess-who-could-never-do-anything-wrong, Elaine Stritch.
There’s a core, bigger-than-life persona that all these stage animals brought to show after show. Musical comedy performers are, by nature, not transformational actors, and Lane plays in that same time-honored tradition. Night after night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, he’s Gomez in “The Addams Family,” but he’s also the put-upon, exasperated, monumental Nathan Lane of “Guys and Dolls,” “Forum” and “The Producers.”
In other words, he’s a real Broadway baby grownup into a genuine legit legend.
The Tony people obviously are in the market for something different, and have instead gone with five fine actors who are receiving their first Tony nomination in what is, in all but one case, their Broadway-musical debut: Sean Hayes in “Promises, Promises,” Sahr Ngaujah in “Fela!” and Douglas Hodge and Kelsey Grammer in “La Cage aux Folles.” Only Chad Kimball from “Memphis” is a vet, with three other Broadway-tuner credits to his resume.
It’s ironic the Broadway community, via the Tonys, has chosen once again not to honor Lane, because it’s this very same group that continually laments the media’s failure to notice the theater except when film and TV stars go slumming there.
Lane is an anachronism, a throwback to another era. His bankable popularity rests almost entirely on auds’ previous experience of having seen him onstage. And auds feel, time after time, that they’re getting their money’s worth. If there’s any comfort for Lane, it’s that “The Addams Family” easily outgrosses every other new musical on Broadway by a few hundred thou every week.
As his stage wife, Morticia Addams, might explain the snub, “The Tonys are dead wrong. Completely.”