Nathan Lane is ‘The Nance’ [Broadway Review]

Posted on: April 23rd, 2013 at 10:24 am by
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Recently we’ve been invited to review Broadway shows. We figured there’s plenty of people who do these things, why not send someone completely unqualified by conventional standards? So we sent our metalhead buddy and told him to try to sound smart. Without further ado, we present his review of The Nance.

The evening started out at Strip House. Great food and a cool vibe. The walls are covered with pictures of 1930s burlesque dancers. More nights should involve that decor. After the cocktail party, we headed over to the Lyceum Theatre which also felt like a nice throwback to the ’30s (it was built in 1903.) Props to the event coordinators on pairing the two venues together.

The Nance stars Nathan Lane. Here’s what I knew about him until this point: “The Lion King,” “The Bird Cage,” and he was the host of SNL when Metallica played it in ’97. (They played “Fuel” and “The Memory Remains.” I know this because I taped it on VHS.) Metal connection established. There’s several sketches from that episode where Nathan Lane plays a woman, which is actually relevant to this review.

“At a time when it is easy to play gay and dangerous to be gay” is part of the teaser for The Nance. It sounds like an awesome action movie trailer with a deep voice narrator reading as things blow up. You know the one. “In a world…” Do not go into it expecting that to happen. This is a staged dramatic production. Very different things.

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In the 1930s, burlesque impresarios welcomed the hilarious comics and musical parodies of vaudeville to their decidedly lowbrow niche. A headliner called “the nance” was a stereotypically camp homosexual and master of comic double entendre – usually played by a straight man.

Aside from Chauncey, the characters took a while to develop. Ned, played by Jonny Orsini, started out as a homeless country bumpkin who moved to the Big Apple on a whim. By the end he was a surprisingly confident performer and had a sense of self worth that hadn’t been established in the first act. The trio of burlesque performers (Cady Huffman, Jenni Barber, and Andrea Burns) also evolved into more well-rounded characters in the second act.

Heads-up ladies and heads-down insecure straight dudes: Jonny Orsini gets naked. (Ed note: Jonny was also in LES-filmed ‘generation Um’ with Keanu Reeves.)

Did Nathan Lane sing “Hakuna Matata”? Obviously not. Did he do a great job? Hells yeah. We were sitting up top in the balcony and his facial expressions and reactions reached us as if we were standing next to him. His timing is impeccable. Sounds like a douchey reviewer thing to say, but he delivered for the whole show.

Check this show out. It’s not a feel-good production you’d see on a first date and automatically get laid afterwards. It makes you think about what it’s like to live in a society where you can act like a gay man but not actually live your life as one. There’s also a more universal theme of how you have to put on a happy face every day at work, but have an utterly miserable and self-destructive personal life at the same time.

Oh, and congrats to The Nance for receiving 6 nominations for the Outer Critics Circle Awards including Outstanding New Broadway Play. That ain’t chump change.

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