“It’s an unbelievable year,” says two-time Tony winner Nathan Lane.
In two weeks, the legendary actor will be seen in No Pay, Nudity—a new indie film directed by Lane’s longtime friend (and original Seymour, as in Suddenly) Lee Wilkof. This fall, Lane will bow on Broadway in The Front Page for a limited engagement before jetting across the pond to take on Angels in America in the West End in May 2017.
Lane is in for some heavy lifting, but it’s these titanic roles that excite him. “It’s a character that I’ve loved,” says Lane of Walter Burns, the ruthless editor he will play in the upcoming revival of The Front Page. “I want to be the guy who gets to say, ‘The son of a bitch stole my watch.’ One of the great curtain lines of all time.”
The opportunity to play Burns has come up before, and, despite his desire to take on the role, Lane was never able to do it. “As Tennessee Williams said, ‘It’s the play that removed the corset from Broadway.’ It’s a play that really changed things. In its day it was quite daring.”
Speaking of risky, ground-breaking plays, after The Front Page folds, Lane will take on “one of the greatest pieces of theatre ever written,” as he describes Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, “and that part is so extraordinary.” Even while in prep for Broadway, Lane has begun his research on Angels’ Roy Cohn. “It’s endlessly fascinating and complicated,” he says. “It was a big decision because it’s a long commitment, but ultimately, I couldn’t say no.”
“It’s the Hamilton of its day,” says Lane of Angels. It rocked the world.
While Lane’s turn in the seminal work may be years after that original lightning-in-a-bottle experience, he does have a few pinch-me moments of his own—including his time in The Producers, which, despite Hamilton, maintained its record this year for the most Tony Award-winning production in history, with a total of 12 accolades. “Secretly, Matthew [Broderick] and I were—and I’m sure Mel Brooks was—happy he held onto his record,” Lane chuckles.
“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences that you’re never—it’s never going to be like that again. It’s a very rare occurrence, like Haley’s Comet,” he says. “I think Hamilton is even on a grander scale, but it was certainly a phenomenon and a national one. It just is one of, certainly, my happier memories in the theatre.”
With such fond memories, it’s no wonder Lane has packed his schedule with stage engagements. Still, it would be something to see the King of Old Broadway back in a musical. “I do feel like musicals are a young man’s game,” says Lane. “Maybe if the right thing happened, came along, I would consider doing another one, but I love taking on these other challenges like Angels in America or The People v. OJ.
“When they work [musicals are] one of the greatest things in the world … certainly if the right thing came along, I would think about that.” We won’t get hung up on words, but here’s hoping.