Life in the Fast Lane

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So I’m staring at the name “Nathan Lane” among the Golden Globe’s nominees for best actor in a musical or comedy, and I’m thinking that against the likes of fellow nominees Johnny Depp, Jeff Daniels, Cillian Murphy, Joaquin Phoenix and Pierce Brosnan, this guy hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in July.

I’m also thinking, “How very ironic.”

Because if this were the other coast and you had that distintive voiced, occasionally chubby actor up for any award, the competition wouldn’t have a chance. Lane’d take Depp, Pacino, De Niro, whoever to the cleaners.

Where stage comedy is concerned, Nathan Lane is basically Tom Cruise. The guy agrees to perform in a show, and that show sells out. “The Producers?” Just try to get a ticket. A revival of Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple?” Break out the AmEx, and ready the second mortgage, Irma, we’re going in.

Whatever else it achieves, the film version of “The Producers” gives everybody who missed Lane’s much ballyhooed turn as Max Bialystock on Broadway (myself among them) a chance to see what all that fuss was about. Asked what Lane _ afforded his first real leading role star turn on film _ delivers, “Producers” director Susan Stroman replied, “He lets you see so many different dimensions of Max. Because of the closeup, you’ll be able to see not only the passion of Max Bialystock, but also some of his vulnerability later in the film.”

Yeah, I guess Timon the meercat of Disney’s “The Lion King” wasnt’ much in the vulnerability department. But I digress…

Fellow stagehounds will recall that we did get the stage “Producers” here in 2003, for eight highly hyped and largely underwhelming months. That production’s Bialy was former “Seinfeld-ian” Jason Alexander, who, during Bialystock’s showstopper “Betrayed” poked fun at himself: “He’s OK. He’s no Nathan Lane…”

Lane’s performed live on our shores as well, although you’ll have to go back more than a decade to find when. He was in the Mark Taper Forum productions of Terrence McNally’s plays “The Lisbon Traviata” (in 1990) and “Lips Together, Teeth Apart” (1993). Both productions were staged before Nathan Lane became BROADWAY’S OWN NATHAN LANE. Were he ever to come back to perform live, tickets would be scarce because L.A. theater audiences tend to go ape over 1. movie stars going legit and 2. performers and shows who have already scored on Broadway. And if you don’t believe me, try to get a decent seat for Billy Crystal’s “700 Sundays” next month at the Wilshire.

And while it would make for a nice upset win to see a not so tall, non romantic 49-year-old comic actor from Jersey beat out the former James Bond, Depp et al, something tells me it ain’t gonna happen.

My money _ sorry Bialy _ is on Jeff Daniels.

2 thoughts on “Life in the Fast Lane

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