Though it was hoped that Nathan Lane would be able to return to an eight-performance-a-week schedule in The Producers as of November 20, following a two-week hiatus from matinees, this was not the case. Lane, who has reportedly been eschewing performances due to a polyp on one of his vocal cords, still hadn't resumed matinees as of this past weekend. "At this point, he is expected to go on for tomorrow's matinee," says publicist Bill Coyle of the probability of a Lane performance on Wednesday afternoon, November 28. "This would be the first time he'll be doing two shows in one day [since the beginning of this month]. But I'm not saying that he's resuming an eight-a-week schedule. At this point, he's doing the matinee tomorrow and we'll see how it works out."
Though it has been rumored that Lane would officially begin to limit his schedule to six shows a week, no such announcement has yet been made, nor would Bill Coyle offer any comment whatsoever on the star's long term schedule of performances. Meanwhile, The Producers' leading role of Max Bialystock continues to be played at matinees by Brad Oscar, who normally appears in the show as the nutzy Nazi Franz Liebkind.
Thus far, Lane's absences have not hurt the musical's box-office receipts: "We're at capacity, no matter what happens," says Bill Coyle. But industry people are speculating on how this scenario will play out in the long run. If Brad Oscar were to continue to go on as Max and play to full houses, could Lane conceivably be asked to leave the show, thereby saving the producers at least some of what is presumably a huge star salary?
More and more often in recent decades, big Broadway musicals have been marketed as events that are designed to draw large audiences regardless of who is or isn't in the cast: Les Misérables, Beauty and the Beast, and Mamma Mia! are only three examples. Without a doubt, the combination of author-composer Mel Brooks, director-choreographer Susan Stroman, and stars Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick helped to make The Producers the biggest Broadway hit in recent memory--but it may be that the show has become such a juggernaut in its own right that it could easily thrive without Lane and/or Broderick, not to mention any other individual member of the company. (As one industry figure ventured in reference to the show's producers: "Maybe they thought they needed stars when they were putting the show together but now they think they don't.") The stars would, of course, be leaving the show next year in any case, so it just may happen that the impact of Lane's absence--if any--will be felt sooner rather than later.