×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Laughter’ Was Present in Nathan Lane’s Early Stage Career

Nathan Lane has done plenty of TV and film, but he’s a Broadway baby. This season, he’ll star in Eugene O’Neill classic “The Iceman Cometh,” as well raucous comedy “It’s Only a Play” (by frequent collaborator Terrence McNally) — his 20th Broadway show.

But in 1982, he was a theater tyro wading through seedy Times Square to make it to rehearsal for Noel Coward’s “Present Laughter,” starring and directed by George C. Scott.

How’d you take that mixed Variety review at the time?

I remember thinking I was grateful that at least he said I was funny. In the New Yorker, Brendan Gill wrote, and I’m quoting: “In the role of an aspiring playwright, Nathan Lane gathered up incessant laughter and applause; his performance struck me as grotesquely amateurish.”

Did you just recite that review from memory?

Oh, that’s in the back of my head permanently.

What was it like working on the show?

I was 26 years old, and it was my Broadway debut, and I couldn’t be more excited about working with George Scott. The first piece of direction he ever gave me was, “Do something crazy.” So when we were onstage, I went over and lifted the dressing robe (he had just taken off), and I sniffed it, really inhaled it. Then I started to caress the piano, and then I disappeared under the piano, sort of fondling it — which I thought fulfilled his need for craziness. We knew not everyone would embrace it — the critics certainly didn’t. But the audience loved it.

Do you think of the play as a significant career moment?

It’s the play a lot of people cite as the first time they saw me. Terrence McNally, for one. That show opened a lot of doors for me.

Did you take away anything from the experience?

When the audience is having such a good time, it’s just about working with your fellow actors and passing the ball. I look at (my current co-star) Micah Stock, who’s brilliantly talented and probably about the same age I was then, and I think, “Well, I’m probably somewhere around the age George was.” It’s funny to be the old person!

Do you still read reviews?

As I’ve gotten older, I try not to. It doesn’t do any good. When I was doing “The Nance” on Broadway last season, we had such a great time, the experience was so terrific, that I just couldn’t bear to see someone dismiss it in a paragraph. I won’t read the reviews for “It’s Only a Play,” either. When I was young, I read everything. Now that I’m older, I know what’s going on. They’ll say what they say.

More Legit

  • Bryan Cranston First Time in Variety

    Bryan Cranston on His Early Roles, Dealing With Rejection and His 'Erasable Mind'

    Following his 2014 Tony Award for best actor as President Lyndon B. Johnson in Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way,” Bryan Cranston is looking to add to his trophy collection this year with his performance as Howard Beale in “Network.” The deranged anchorman — who’s famously “mad as hell and not going to take this [...]

  • Ink Play West End London

    Wary Theater Rivalry Between London and New York Gives Way to a Boom in Crossovers

    Give or take a little tectonic shift, the distance between London and New York still stands at 3,465 miles. Arguably, though, the two theater capitals have never been closer. It’s not just the nine productions playing in duplicate in both locations — believed to be the most ever — with three more expected in the [...]

  • Alex Brightman Beetlejuice Broadway

    How Alex Brightman Brought a Pansexual Beetlejuice to Life on Broadway

    Alex Brightman gives the deadliest performance on Broadway — in a good way — in “Beetlejuice.” The big-budget musical adaptation of the 1988 film directed by Tim Burton has scored eight Tony nominations, including best actor. To play the frisky role, Brightman (“School of Rock”) dons Beetlejuice’s striped suit and an assortment of colorful wigs [...]

  • Santino Fontana Tootsie Broadway Illustration

    'Tootsie' Star Santino Fontana on the Challenges of His Tony-Nominated Dual Role

    Santino Fontana is doing double duty on Broadway this year. The “Tootsie” star scored his second Tony Award nomination this month for his hilarious portrayal of struggling actor Michael Dorsey and Dorothy Michaels, the female persona that Dorsey assumes to win a role in a play. The musical, based on the 1982 comedy starring Dustin [...]

  • Dear Evan Hansen

    Broadway Cast Albums Find Fresh Footing With Hip New Sounds, Viral Outreach

    Mixtapes. YouTube videos. Dedicated playlists. Ancillary products. Viral marketing. Epic chart stays. These are things you expect to hear from a record label discussing Cardi B or Beyoncé. Instead, this is the new world of a very old staple, the Broadway original cast recording. Robust stats tell the tale: Atlantic’s “Hamilton” album beat the record [...]

  • Ali Stroker Oklahoma

    Ali Stroker on 'Oklahoma!': 'This Show Doesn’t Follow the Rules and That Is So Who I Am'

    Ali Stroker is no stranger to rewriting history. With her 2015 Broadway debut in “Spring Awakening,” she became the first actor in a wheelchair to perform on the Great White Way. Three years later, she’s back onstage in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” as Ado Annie, the flirtatious local who splits her affections between a resident [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content