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Nathan Lane to Improve Box Office Outlook at Broadway’s ‘It’s Only a Play’

Starry Broadway comedy “It’s Only Play,” which became a box office juggernaut in the fall but saw sales drop with a cast changeover in January, looks poised to step back up into the upper tiers of the sales chart when Nathan Lane returns to the show later this spring.

Lane, who exited “It’s Only a Play” to headline the Brooklyn Academy Music run of the Goodman Theater’s production of “The Iceman Cometh,” is one of Broadway’s most reliable sales draws, especially when he’s paired with “Only a Play” cast member Matthew Broderick, with whom he starred in megahit “The Producers” and “The Odd Couple.”

With Lane and Broderick leading a cast that also included Rupert Grint and Megan Mullally, the revival of the Terrence McNally comedy “It’s Only a Play” instantly became one of Broadway’s top sellers. Ensemble members including Stockard Channing and F. Murray Abraham — both still in the show, along with Broderick — helped the production hit a critical mass of recognizable faces.

Encouraged by the supersized sales, producers extended the show’s initially limited run through March, and then through June, a decision that precipitated a move to another theater to make way for incoming Helen Mirren play “The Audience.”

Lane, Mullally and Grint all departed the production in January. Replacements Martin Short, Katie Finneran and Maulik Pancholy couldn’t sustain the same box office momentum, and the production went from logging weeks of well over $1 million to, more recently, weeks of about $500,000.

Lane will return to finish off the run of “It’s Only a Play,” now set to shutter in June.  Mullally and Grint won’t be back with him, but given Lane’s status as a Broadway favorite, especially when he’s in a comedy, his return to the production seems certain to give sales at the show a shot in the arm.

Lane, whose stint in “Iceman” ends March 15, heads back into “It’s Only a Play” March 31 and will be with the production through June 7.

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