Burlesque Is Back: The Nance, Starring Tony Award Winner Nathan Lane, Opens On Broadway April 15
By Adam Hetrick
Late 1930's New York and the twilight of the burlesque era come to life in Douglas Carter Beane's The Nance, a new dark comedy starring Nathan Lane as a gay entertainer with everything to lose, which officially opens April 15 at the Lyceum Theatre.
Tony Award-winning director Jack O'Brien (The Coast of Utopia, Hairspray) stages the Lincoln Center Theater production that began previews March 21. Lane, a Tony Award winner for The Producers and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, stars in the central role of Chauncey Miles, a homosexual burlesque headliner facing a changing world and his own self-loathing.
The cast also boasts original Tony Award-winning Producers cast member Cady Huffman, Tony nominee Lewis J. Stadlen (Forum, The Producers, The Man Who Came to Dinner), Jenni Barber (The Performers, As You Like It), Andrèa Burns (In the Heights, Songs for a New World), Geoffrey Allen Murphy (War Horse) and Jonny Orsini (An Early History of Fire, Banished Children of Eve) in his Broadway debut as Ned, the younger lover of Lane's character.
Understudies include Stephen DeRosa, Matthew Goodrich, Michael Kostroff, Mylinda Hull and Megan Sikora.
"Even in today's gay culture people do not realize how difficult it was for people in the '30s and '40s, not only to get together, but to be decent, to have a life, to not feel marginalized," director Jack O'Brien said in a recent interview.
Beane added, "I wanted to remind people about where we come from and who we are. There is still this element of self-loathing to us, and editing who we are—'Shush, don’t say that and don’t be that way'—more than any other community that I've seen."
The world of New York City's bygone burlesque era is conjured with new musical material by Glen Kelly (The Producers, Spamalot, The Scottsboro Boys, The Book of Mormon); and a revolving set by John Lee Beatty that takes audiences on and off-stage as the action plays out.
The production also has costumes by Ann Roth, lighting by Japhy Weideman, sound by Leon Rothenberg, choreography by Joey Pizzi and orchestrations by Larry Blank. David Gursky conducts the band.
The Nance takes its title from a staple vaudeville character, an effeminate homosexual male, who was featured in burlesque sketches and films of the era. The Nance is set during New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia's campaign to ban burlesque in the '30s.
Beane previously told Playbill.com, "America has the greatest knack for immediately forgetting any of its unattractive history the second we've moved on. As astounding progress is being made daily for gay folks everywhere in America, I just wanted to take an evening and remind us all where we come from. And teach the younger gay kids what has come before them."
According to LCT, "A nance, according to Webster's Dictionary, is 'an effeminate or homosexual man.' In the world of 1930s burlesque, a nance was a wildly popular character, a stereotypically camp homosexual man, most times played by a straight performer. In The Nance, playwright Douglas Carter Beane tells the story of Chauncey Miles, a headline nance performer in New York burlesque, who also happens to be a homosexual. Integrating burlesque sketches into his drama, Beane paints, with humor and pathos, the portrait of a homosexual man, living and working in the secretive and dangerous gay world of 1930s New York, whose outrageous antics on the burlesque stage stand in marked contrast to his messy offstage life."
Beane's new treatment for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella is now debuting on Broadway. His works also include the Tony-nominated comedy The Little Dog Laughed, As Bees In Honey Drown, Mr. & Mrs. Fitch, Music From A Sparkling Planet, The Country Club, Advice From A Caterpiller and The Cartells. He received Tony Award nominations for the books to the musicals Xanadu, Sister Act and Lysistrata Jones. He also penned the screenplay "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar."
Lane's numerous stage credits include The Addams Family, The Lisbon Traviata, Guys and Dolls, Waiting for Godot, November, Butley, The Odd Couple, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Love! Valor! Compassion!, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, On Borrowed Time, Present Laughter and The Frogs. He is a two-time Emmy Award winner and currently appears on "The Good Wife."
View highlights from the production here!
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