The producers of the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum reportedly are planning to announce in the next few weeks who will replace Nathan Lane in the starring role when his contract ends in March 1997.
Here are the results of a Playbill On-Line poll on the subject, conducted in July. When the announcement is made, we'll see how close we came to predicting correctly.
Jason Alexander was the overwhelming favorite among Playbill On-Line members to succeed Nathan Lane in the Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.
As it happens, Alexander has played Pseudolus on Broadway previously, in his Tony-winning performance as the lead in 1988's Jerome Robbins' Broadway. Alexander led the cast in singing "Comedy Tonight," recreating Robbins' staging.
There were many other fascination suggestions as well: Martin Short, Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Jeter and more. Thanks to all who participated. Here are selections from the results:
Not that anyone could REPLACE Nathan Lane... but what a coincidence that you should pose the question, as I am sure lots of folks have been giving this some thought... I know I have. And I have been thinking that Jason Alexander would be next to perfect. In addition to his "Seinfeld" work, I have also watched him with scrutiny in the Bye Bye Birdie remake and recently in "Dunstan Checks In." He seems to have the right voice type and caricature-like body type and comic delivery, and I think he is delightful.
1. Jason Alexander -- Why? Didn't require me to think to hard. They seem to travel the same paths.
2. John Goodman or Danny DeVito -- Good cross-over opportunity; television/film popularity could mean box office opportunities with out-of-towners.
3. Whoopi Goldberg -- Choice would certainly reinforce the non-traditional nature of anything associated with Sondheim. She would deliver and this would be big news (big box office).
From J.R. Daniliuk
Iowa City, IA:
I think Nathan Lane should be replaced by Jason Alexander of TV's Seinfeld and the 1989 Tony Award winning best musical Jerome Robbins Broadway. I saw Alexander play the role of Pseudolus in Forum's "Comedy Tonight" number in Jerome Robbins Broadway in 1989, and I saw Lane in Forum last month. I laughed more watching Alexander in the one scene than I did watching Lane in the whole show. Also, I think that Alexander (who won a Tony for Jerome Robbins Broadway) should get back to theatre before he is stuck playing the amoral, sleazy characters that have made him famous (Pretty Woman, Seinfeld).
From Brian Pier,
My first reaction to replacing Nathan Lane is DON'T. He really is perfect for the part. A replacement would significantly alter the humor and pace of the show. However, I would fly to New York to see Robin Williams in the role. The performance might be 4 hours long with Robin's ad-libs, but the audience would hurt from laughing. Rosie O'Donnell would be another funny replacement (although the script may not survive such a massive rewrite).
If you really want to squirm in your seat, think about Jackie Mason or Jerry Lewis. Can Rob "Caveman" Becker sing?
I would love to see John Lovitz as Pseudolus. He's a very funny comic. He looks the part too. He might be a different kind of Pseudolus, but his humor would fit perfectly.
Why not Ernie Sabella [currently playing Lycus in the show]? He's got a voice, he's got the physical comedy presence.
From Dawn Gallup:
STEVE MARTIN! Why?
1) He can sing, he proved it in PENNIES FROM HEAVEN.
2) He can do physical comedy.
3) He had not yet conquered Broadway, and would welcome the professional challenge that it offers.
4) He might even be a bigger drawing card than Nathan!
From TOM PAULINI:
I know age may not be in his favor, but in a very comedic role such as Pseudolus, who could be funnier than Jerry Lewis? I saw him in Damn Yankees and he was perfect, it would also sell tickets. Richard Simmons might be good if he's available. Bill Irwin of Fool Moon may not be as good a ticket seller as the others , but you must admit he's funny. To target a younger crowd pay Jim Carrey $20M for it! Donny Osmond?!!?!???
From Van Dean:
I think Martin Short would be a worthy Pseudolus. He has great comic timing and has the right voice quality for the part.
From Anish Khanna:
Robin Williams! He'd probably charge an arm and a leg, but maybe he'll make an exception and do it as a favor for his screen husband/wife [Lane in Birdcage].
From John W Pingree Jr:
Martin Short is a possibility for Lane's replacement in "Forum." Short has already starred on Broadway in "The Goodbye Girl" and received excellent reviews. Plus, his career could sure use a boost, following poor movie choices and his disastrous TV series last fall. Granted, Short might be a better Hysterium than a Pseudolus, but I doubt he would play a secondary role on stage. However, if another "Forum" movie was made, Short might be the perfect Hysterium opposite Lane's Pseudolus.
Other possibilities: Jason Alexander, who of course played Pseudolus in the "Forum" excerpt of "Jerome Robbins' Broadway"; Adam Arkin who replaced Lane in "Guys and Dolls"--he might want a break from the melodramatic rigors of "Chicago Hope"; or Sonny Bono if he's defeated in the upcoming election. He's played the part before in summer stock and he might bring in the right-wing audience as well as the sixties nostalgia folks. (OK, I'm not serious about Sonny Bono.)
From Jeff Walker:
The comedian Kevin Meaney who starred in the short lived UNCLE BUCK tv show a few seasons back. He's featured on Comedy Central a lot and has a bigger than life kind of comic stature. (He could be Nathan's goofier, riskier cousin who got them into lots of trouble as youths.) The only trouble is, he's not a "Name."
From Tim Taylor:
One suggestion comes to mind: Tom Hanks. He has conquered television ("Bosom Buddies"), movies, why not Broadway? Who cares whether or not he can he can sing? One other option: Bronson Pinchot. Who wouldn't want to see a reunion of the principals of "Perfect Strangers" (Pinchot and Mark Linn-Baker, currently playing opposite Lane in "Forum")?
From Lee Fritz
My choice to replace Nathan Lan in FORUM is a young actor named Roger Bart. I have now seen this exceptional performer in two shows: THE WHO'S TOMMY ( four times!) and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. In TOMMY her played cousin Kevin, and in the current natl tour of HOT TO SUCCEED, he brings the house down as Bud Frump.
This young man is extremely talented. His comic timing is absolutely wonderfull. His attention to detail is extraordinary! I feel it is time that he is recognized for his outstanding talent and gets the "big break" by taking over for Mr. Lane. Mr. Bart is a major star just waiting to shine in his very own spotlight! He has everything it takes to perform the character of Pseudolus....looks, charm, timing...everything!
From Jonathan Hunt:
I think Michael Jeter would be a perfect replacement. He's already proven he's a great physical comic in Sister Act 2 (with Whoopi Goldberg) and in the TV movies of Gypsy (with Bette Midler) and The Boys Next Door (with Nathan Lane). Plus, he's been on Broadway in Grand Hotel and sang "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid" at the Sondheim STAGE benefit in LA. I think Jeter would be the perfect choice.
I'd also be curious to see what Jim Carrey--another great physical comic and master improviser--would do with the role. Highly unproabable though.
From Madeline C. Ricciardi
Mt. Sinai, NY:
Myself and my office feel Mandy Patinkin would make a great Pseudolus. He's a fast talker and a fine singer and would have no problem carrying this show. Because of his fame from the television show "Chicago Hope" he could be a good draw for when Nathan leaves.
From Bonnie Stiskal:
I always saw John Goodman as the Zero Mostel comic type. Even though I am not a fan of the television show in which he appears, John Goodman has shown talent in some of his movies along with the fact that he has moderate singing ability that he displayed in the popular movie King Ralph. But I really highly doubt Broadway can find anyone to replace such a perfect actor as Lane, in Febuary, so my feeling is that they should close the show.
I think Danny Devito would be a good choice. He is hilarious and would fit the part. I don't think he can sing, though.
I think that Chip Zien would make a fantastic replacement for Nathan Lane. Aside from being an extraordinary talent, he has enough of a name for those who know Broadway to not feel anticlimactic from such a hyped-up actor.
From Andrew J. Fox:
John Goodman: a great comedic actor, a theatrically trained actor, and a musical actor (Big River) .
Kevin Kline would be good, but he is a bit too tall and good looking for a Pseudolous.
Martin Short: has that hyper quality Lane does, plus he is no stranger to musicals ( The Goodbye Girl). Of course, I always thought he should replace Matthew Broderick in How To Succeed, but no one ever listens to me.
Victor Garber: do we really need an explanation?
Of course, we'll probably get Jim Carrey or something.
From Nicholas Simons:
Lewis J. Stadlen, he was Nathan Detroit in tour of Guys and Dolls
Mark Linn-Baker [playing Hysterium in the current production]: has big name and could easily do the part.
Matthew Broderick: BIG name and is very talented in that he can do a wide variety of characters.