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Lane, Nathan (b. 1956)  
page: 1  2  

In 1992, Lane returned to Broadway in a revival of Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls, directed by Jerry Zaks. His performance as Nathan Detroit earned him rave reviews and another Drama Desk award, this one for best actor in a musical, as well as a Tony nomination. The next year he was well-received as the star of Neil Simon's Laughter on the 23d Floor, also directed by Zaks.

In 1994 Lane supplied the voice of Timon the meerkat in Rob Minkoff's The Lion King. Lane teamed with Ernie Sabella, who voiced a warthog, on the movie's extremely popular song Hakuna Matata. Lane has since been the voice of other animated characters, including a cat in the film Stuart Little (1999, directed by Minkoff) and a dog in the Disney cartoon show Teacher's Pet, for which he won a Daytime Emmy award.

In 1994 Lane worked in another play by McNally, Love! Valour! Compassion! (directed by Joe Mantello). He earned a Drama Desk award as best featured actor in a play for his complex and moving portrayal of a gay man with AIDS.

Lane next appeared in a 1996 revival of Stephen Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, directed by Zaks. Starring as Pseudolus, a Roman slave, Lane garnered enthusiastic reviews and a Tony award for best performance by a leading actor in a musical.

In 1996, Lane played drag queen Albert opposite Robin Williams' Armand in Mike Nichols's film The Birdcage, a remake of Edouardo Molinaro's 1978 film based on Jean Poiret's play, La Cage aux Folles. The film, with a script by Elaine May and Mike Nichols, was set in Miami's South Beach. Although controversial in a number of quarters, especially for its stereotypical portrait of a gay couple, the film was a commercial success, and Lane's performance was described as "wide-ranging [and] inventive."

Lane starred in a CBS situation comedy entitled Encore! Encore! in 1998-1999. He played a retired opera singer who returns to his home in the Napa Valley to assume management of his family's winery. Lane's original concept for his character was that of a "diva chef in a five-star restaurant" who had come out and was raising his son.

As it turned out, however, his character was entirely heterosexualized and he played an (unlikely) womanizer. Despite his own good acting (and the presence of veteran actress Joan Plowright, who played his mother), the show failed to attract an audience and was soon canceled.

Lane's recent work has included a 2000 production of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman's The Man Who Came to Dinner (directed by Zaks) and a starring role in Mel Brooks' The Producers (2001, directed by Susan Stroman), described as "the biggest hit on Broadway in more than a decade." Lane won a Tony award for best actor in a musical for his hilarious performance as Max Bialystock.

In 2002 Lane appeared as Mr. Crummles in Douglas McGrath's film version of Dicken's Nicholas Nickleby. The actor, who has a "talent holding deal" with CBS, also was chosen to star in a comedy series in which he will play a gay congressman. The show has not yet been scheduled.

In 2004, Lane opened to mixed reviews in a musical adaptation of Aristophanes's The Frogs, with a book by Bert Shrevelove and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The show was originally produced in 1974 at the Yale School of Drama; for the 2004 production Lane freely adapted Shrevelove's book and starred as Dionysos, the god of theater.

Lane has never made a secret of his homosexuality. He came out to his family when he was twenty-one and about to move in with a lover. He did not comment publicly on his sexual orientation until 1999, however.

He has been criticized by some activists in the gay community for waiting so long to come out publicly. In an interview in The Advocate Lane explained that he "[found] it difficult to discuss [his] personal life with total strangers" but was moved to speak out after the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard. "At this point it's selfish not to do whatever you can," said Lane. "If I . . . say I'm a gay person, it might make it easier for somebody else. So it seems stupid not to."

In other interviews Lane has alluded to an "on-again-off-again relationship with an actor who lives in Los Angeles," but has otherwise maintained privacy about his personal relationships.

Linda Rapp

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"Lane, Nathan." Current Biography Yearbook 1996. Judith Graham, ed. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1996. 286-289.

"Lane, Nathan." Contemporary Theatre, Film and Television. Michael J. Tyrkus, ed. Detroit: Gale Group, 2000. 201-203.

Vilanch, Bruce. "Citizen Lane." The Advocate (February 2, 1999): 30.

Witchel, Alex. "'This Is It--As Happy as I Get, Baby.' Nathan Lane." New York Times (September 2, 2001): Sec. 6, 22.


    Citation Information
    Author: Rapp, Linda  
    Entry Title: Lane, Nathan  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 8, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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