Nathan Lane, Tony-winning star of Broadway's The Producers, will reduce his stage commitment to the Mel Brooks musical to six shows a week over the next two weeks. The decision was made after Lane consulted with his doctors; the actor dropped out of the show last week after a polyp was discovered on his left vocal cord. For the next fortnight, Lane will perform only one show a day, Tuesday through Sunday, forgoing the Wednesday and Saturday matinees.
Brad Oscar, Lane's understudy, will play Max Bialystock when Lane is out. Oscar, who normally plays Nazi playwright Franz, covered the role of Max last week and has been generally well received.
Lane's struggles with the exhausting nature of the lead role of Max Bialystock have been well documented and led to last week's diagnosis. The polyp caused the actor to remove himself from the hit musical through Nov. 3, with doctors ordering him not to speak until his throat heals.
A Barlow-Hartman office spokesperson told Playbill On-Line that Lane did perform on Sunday, Nov. 4. Reports from those who saw the Sunday show said that Lane was in poor voice but compensated with his trademark comic gusto and personality.
According to the Times, the polyp was found on Oct. 30. Since the show opened on Broadway last spring, Lane has occasionally missed performances. The musical requires him to be on stage much of the time, often yelling lines at the top of his voice as well as singing several songs, including the show-stopping comic aria "Betrayed." "My understanding is this can turn into something very serious if it's not treated," Lane's publicist, Simon Halls told the Times. "There's no permanent damage, but it's in a serious enough place that he's got to take care of it. He doesn't want to blow his voice out at 45. He's got a lot of shows in front of him."
Refunds or exchanges will be proffered to audiences who missed seeing Lane. Both Lane and co-star Matthew Broderick are contracted for the show through March 17. "An extension has been broached" for Lane, Barlow noted, "but nothing's confirmable at this point." He added that whatever Broderick's commitment to playing Harold Hill in an upcoming television version of The Music Man, the actor would not need to take an extended leave from The Producers to do so.