For most of the evening’s program, Broadway luminaries and exceptional talents — Terrence McNally, Christine Baranski, Mike Birbiglia and Matthew Broderick among them — heaped praise on Lane for his many professional and personal accomplishments.
But when it came time for Lane to accept his honor, the president-elect’s recent Broadway commentary couldn’t go without mention.
“We must all try to enjoy ourselves right now because once President Trump takes control, we could all wind up in internment camps for the highly theatrical,” Lane said to laughs. “Living on nothing but cosmopolitans and cast albums. Anyway, let’s not dwell on the future.”
Later he added, “Donald Trump recently tweeted that the theater must always be a safe and special place, though he’s probably thinking more Guantanamo Bay than Neverland.”
Trump rattled off the tweet that Lane referenced on Saturday morning, after Vice President-elect Mike Pence was booed at a performance of “Hamilton” the night before.
“The theater should also be a dangerous and daring place, an angry and unforgiving place,” Lane said. “A place where anything can happen and be brought to life by talented artists.”
During his speech, Lane also recounted his history with the Manhattan Theatre Club, and expressed deep gratitude for the honor.
“These days I can tell I’m getting older by the amount of times I get up to go to the bathroom at night, and the amount of times I’ve been honored in public,” he joked.
The evening featured several rousing musical performances, opening with a trio performed by Lewis Stadlen, Jefferson Mays and Mark Linn-Baker. Later Jenni Barber performed a tribute, and Andrea Martin put on an unforgettable routine as well.
Lynne Meadow, the Theatre Club’s artistic director, summed up Lane’s contribution to the theater community with her touching remarks.
“Nathan is not just a great artist, and a beloved star,” she said, then addressing him directly, “Nathan, you are a deep and generous man who truly understands the most important things in life.”