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A Film by Michael Kantor



Nathan Lane

You gotta love a guy who took his stage name from a character in “Guys and Dolls.” While doing a dinner-theater production of the show in the 1970s, Joseph Lane discovered that someone else in Actors Equity had his name, so he did the obvious: he adopted the first name of his character, Nathan Detroit. When Nathan Lane played his theatrical namesake in the 1992 Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls,” he also took on the title “Clown Prince of Broadway.”

“The theater was always the dream for me. The reason I was in most of the movies I’ve done is that they paid for me to be in the theater,” he said in a NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE interview. “I used to watch the Tony Awards and I was fascinated by those people — Robert Preston, Zero Mostel, Angela Lansbury. When I was a kid and my brother took me to the theater, that was the most exciting thing.” Lane got his first Tony for reprising Mostel’s role in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” (1996) and his second in 2001 for adapting Mostel’s film role in “The Producers” to the musical stage.

Nathan Lane

Born: February 3, 1956
Key Shows
  • "A Funny Thing Happened on The Way to The Forum"
  • "The Frogs"
  • "Guys and Dolls"
  • "Merlin"
  • "The Producers"
  • "Wind in The Willows"
Related Artists
  • Matthew Broderick
  • Mel Brooks
  • Chita Rivera
  • Susan Stroman
Lane is able to combine Mostel’s four-dimensional energy with the staccato delivery of a Phil Silvers, but he brings his own neurotic skepticism to the proceedings, adding a modern note of tension to the tradition of buffoonery. There’s something ineffably I-wouldn’t-want-to-belong-to-any-club-that -would-have-someone-like-me-as-a-member to Lane’s performances, a kind of free pass for audiences, in this age of hype, not to take anything too seriously. After all, when it was announced that he would make an unprecedented return to “The Producers” two years into its run, on New Year’s Eve, 2003, he shrugged and said, “I had nothing to do on New Year’s Eve anyway.”
Source: Excerpted from BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL by Michael Kantor and Laurence Maslon. Published by Bulfinch Press.

Photo credits: Photofest