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

  • The Jungle review

    Off Broadway Review: 'The Jungle'

    With the rumbling of semis careening by and the sound of Middle Eastern music in the distance, “The Jungle” aims to vividly immerse audiences into the world of the real-life migrant and refugee camp of the same name. By telling the story of the Jungle’s creation in Calais, France, in 2015, and its eventual destruction [...]

  • Hillary Clinton'Network' play opening night, New

    Hillary Clinton Attends Opening of Broadway's 'Network'

    A 1976 film might not be expected to translate seamlessly to Broadway in 2018, but for the cast and creative team behind “Network,” which premiered Thursday night with Hillary Clinton in the audience, the story still feels uncomfortably close to home. “It was a satire then, and now it’s documentary realism,” said Lee Hall, who [...]

  • 'Network' Review: Bryan Cranston Stars on

    Broadway Review: 'Network' With Bryan Cranston

    The 1976 film “Network” won four Academy Awards, including best original screenplay for writer Paddy Chayefsky, for its blistering portrayal of an American society fueled by greed and bloated on corruption. A haggard Peter Finch took the best actor trophy for his harrowing performance as Howard Beale, a TV newsman who is so disgusted by [...]

  • Faye DunawayVanity Fair Oscar Party, Arrivals,

    Faye Dunaway to Play Katharine Hepburn on Broadway

    Faye Dunaway will return to Broadway to play another acting diva. The Oscar-winner is set to portray Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman play that charts the movie legend’s career over the course of a winding monologue. Dunaway last appeared on Broadway in 1982’s “The Curse of the Aching Heart.” In the 1990s, [...]

  • Philip Bosco'The Savages' film after party,

    Tony Award Winner Philip Bosco Dies at 88

    Veteran character actor Philip Bosco, who won a Tony Award in 1989 for “Lend Me a Tenor” as an opera impresario and was nominated five other times, died Monday, according to his grandson, Luke Bosco. He was 88. Bosco received his first Tony nomination for “Rape of the Belt” in 1960. His other nominations were [...]

  • Hugh Jackman

    Hugh Jackman Says 'Greatest Showman' Success Made Him Revive Stage Show

    Hugh Jackman could have spent his hiatus between movies soaking up rays in Saint-Tropez. Instead of lounging poolside, the movie star will return to the stage for a grueling series of arena performances that will take him across Europe, Australia, and the U.S. The upcoming musical extravaganza, “The Man. The Music. The Show.,” kicks off [...]

  • Bob Mackie, Costume Designer and Cher'The

    Watch Cher's Surprise Performance at the Opening of Broadway's 'Cher' Musical

    Kanye West may have caused some unwanted drama at the opening of Broadway’s “The Cher Show” on Monday in New York, but thankfully his alleged bad behavior didn’t come close to spoiling the evening. Cher herself caused fantastic frenzy as she glided down the aisle of the jam-packed Neil Simon Theatre toward her seat. All [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content