How few can you do? That seems to be the new currency in Broadway stardom these days, what with Elaine Stritch negotiating to do five shows a week (rather than the standard eight) when her solo reaches Broadway in the spring, and producers showing more willingness to be flexible with stars' schedules, rather than risk not having a show at all.
The most ongoing example of now-you-see-him, now-you-don't has been Nathan Lane in the Broadway mega-hit, The Producers. For two weeks last month, Lane, who won a Tony for playing Max Bialystock in the Mel Brooks-Thomas Meehan tuner, was playing only six performances a week instead of the standard eight. The decision to do this was made after Lane consulted with his doctors; he'd been missing performances sporadically since May.
The past two weeks have seen Lane go back to his full, eight-times-a week schedule, but that's apparently proved a hindrance to his healing. As such, until further notice, the actor will do only six shows a week, skipping Tuesday nights and Wednesday matinees. His previous six-a-week schedule had Lane missing the Wednesday and Saturday matinees. Now, instead, the actor will get a very long weekend: i.e., after finishing the Sunday matinee, he's not due back at the St. James till Wednesday evening.
According to Barlow-Hartman office spokespersons, the most recent decision was made "in an effort to continue to heal the chronic vocal fatigue that [Lane] has been suffering from for the past several months." Brad Oscar, Lane's understudy, will continue to play Max Bialystock when Lane is out. Oscar normally plays Nazi playwright Franz, a role that will be covered by Jim Borstelmann.
* Lane's struggles with the exhausting nature of the lead role of Max Bialystock have been well documented and led to the diagnosis. The polyp caused the actor to remove himself from the hit musical through Nov. 3, with doctors ordering him not to even speak until his throat healed. According to the Times, the polyp was found on Oct. 30. The musical requires Lane 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 at the time. "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."
Both Lane and co-star Matthew Broderick are contracted for the show through March 17. "An extension has been broached" for Lane, spokesperson John Barlow noted, "but nothing's confirmable at this point."
The first high-profile instance of reduced performances in recent times came when Miss Saigon first opened, and Lea Salonga, to preserve her voice and strength, was contracted to play Kim only at evening performances.
In other Producers news, though tour dates are still being worked out, on New Year's Eve 2002, San Diego will get the West Coast premiere of the tuner for a two-week run at the Civic Theatre through Jan. 12, 2003.
A spokesperson at TMG marketing confirmed a San Diego Union-Tribune report of the tour dates. Tickets at the 2,975-seat Civic will run decidedly less than the the $480 top price for "Inner Circle" ducats at Broadway's St. James Theatre. Broadway/San Diego director Joe Kobryner told the Union-Tribune the price range for the CA stay will run $34.50 $78.
No word yet (as of Dec. 12) on dates for the show's sit-down engagement in L.A., and a report from the Colorado-based Rocky Mountain News notes that Denver Center Attractions, which had hoped to land the musical in 2003, won't see it until spring 2004 at the earliest.
A TMG spokesperson told Playbill On-Line Dec. 14, that unlike most Broadway national tours, which announce a whole slate of cities in one fell swoop, The Producers is "letting each market announce individually. Since they're only doing subscriptions and not single tickets, the markets want to make their own announcement when they're ready. We're the key selling point for them on their subscription plans this year, so we're not going to pre-announce for them."
In further Producers news, Mel Brooks has milked a new revenue source out of the cash cow that is The Producers. The producer composer-librettist-funnyman has put out a new book, modestly titled, "The Producers! The Biggest Hit in the History of Broadway! How We Did It."
The TalkMiramax publication follows the process of developing the tuner, including how Brooks and Meehan went from a film script with two songs to a full-fledged Broadway book and score. The 224-page volume includes the show's dialogue and lyrics, as well as color photographs shot during rehearsals, onstage and behind the scenes.
For tickets and information on The Producers at the St. James Theatre, call (212) 239-5800. For Broadway Inner Circle tickets, call (212) 563-2829.