Combustible and bankable, Lane and Broderick on a Broadway marquee together provokes that practically Pavlovian response.
Now the pair is in Terrence McNally’s “It’s Only a Play” — and advance
sales of the inside-theater comedy beginning previews on Thursday are
“$8 mil and climbing,” says a gleeful spokesman.
But “The Producers,” it’s not. Lane and Broderick all but owned that
2001 megahit musical. And this is no new “Odd Couple,” the 2005 revival
that was seemingly just as made for them as it was for the original
mismatched roommates, Walter Matthau and Art Carney.
But in “It’s Only a Play,” Lane and Broderick are merely pieces of a
comedic puzzle that includes Stockard Channing, Megan Mullally and F.
Murray Abraham. In this cast, everyone is a star. Which means that Lane
and Broderick are not.
Better to know that going in. And, fair enough, the ads for the show
make that clear, with the cast in alphabetical order. So does McNally.
“Nathan and Matthew have a lot to do together and their relationship is
essential to the story — but it’s very much an ensemble play,” says
McNally, who has overhauled his 1980s-era script to bring the tale up to
the digital age.
So tell Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom their run is over. And rent out
Oscar Madison and Felix Unger’s apartment. Yet people are still buying
tickets in bunches, possibly on the larger chemistry of the full cast in
this “Broadway comedy about the comedy of Broadway.”
Broderick plays an anxious writer, and Lane is his best friend, a stage
actor turned TV star who turned down his buddy’s new work, “The Golden
Egg,” that just opened on Broadway. Reviews are coming — and they’re not
good (including the one from the writer’s pal).
Channing is the dope-addled “Egg” star; Mullally its rookie producer,
Rupert Grint its wunderkind Brit director. Abraham is a poison-penned
critic, and newcomer Micah Stock is an amiable coat-check guy.
“Amadeus” Oscar winner Abraham has done a dozen other shows on Broadway
and has 50 years of experience. “The real engine among the actors is
Nathan,” he says, “and I don’t say that easily because I’m usually the
engine. But not this time.”
Lane compares the cast to the daredevil circus act the Flying
Wallendas. Highwire acts, like the notoriously hard job of making comedy
funny, only work when everyone hits their marks and nails their part.
“It’s about really great ensemble playing,” says Lane, adding that it’s
not about him and Broderick as a team. “The group is the team. That’s
the only way this play works.”