New York’s Theater District may have changed, but America’s premier musical comedian is still starstruck after all these years. Dani Shapiro meets him in the wings.
“The first time I played Broadway was in 1982 at Circle in the Square, doing Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, which was directed by and starred George C. Scott. It was special to me for many reasons, aside from my debut. It was also the debut of Kate Burton, Christine Lahti, Dana Ivey. Opening night, I remember being onstage and seeing people’s faces in the audience. I happened to notice Tony Randall sitting there. In the play, there was a big fight scene between me and George C. Scott. And I thought to myself, I must be doing something right if I’m being yelled at onstage by George C. Scott and Tony Randall is watching.
The Theater District has changed so much over the years. When I started, it was a bit seedy—full of porn palaces—and now it’s more like a giant mall, very brightly lit, with a huge amount of activity. Sometimes you long for the seediness, but it’s in better shape now. No matter where you are—Duluth or Manhattan—to begin rehearsals of a play is still an exciting feeling. Each time you’re starting over again. It’s scary, like the first day of school. You want to do well."
Nathan Lane is now performing on Broadway in David Mamet’s November. For tickets, call 212/239-6200 or visit novembertheplay.com.
A relaxed café where actors and audience alike go to get a burger and see familiar faces. 258 W. 44th St.; 212/221-9222; angusmcindoe.com; dinner for two $80.
Next door to Joe Allen’s namesake restaurant is his quiet, always reliable Italian place (with outposts in London and Los Angeles). 322 W. 46th St.; 212/489-7212; orsorestaurant.com; dinner for two $90.