Top Five Reasons to See The Nance

The Nance opened April 15 at the Lyceum Theatre.  Starring Nathan Lane, Jonny Orsini, Lewis J. Stadlen, Cady Huffman, Jenni Barber and Andrea Burns, The Nance vividly paints the portrait of the world of burlesque at its zenith as well as the beginning of its demise.  After viewing this production, I can happily report that I wasn’t disappointed.  The Nance is witty, thought-provoking and one of the most complete shows I’ve seen this spring.  If you desire a night at the theatre that offers a little sex, lots of laughter and a provocative narrative, then I suggest you get down to the Lyceum Theatre and say, “Hi, simply hi,” to the ticket agent and get yourself a ticket to The Nance.  And just in case my word isn’t good enough, below are F.A.M.E NYC’s top five reasons to go see The Nance.   

productionphoto1.THENANCE Nathan Lane – Nathan Lane is a no stranger to the neon lights of Broadway.  In fact, with productions like Guys and Dolls, The Producers, The Odd Couple and The Addams Family under his belt, Lane is a veteran and a box office draw. In The Nance, he plays Chauncey Miles, a seasoned burlesque performer known for his flamboyant routine.  Chauncey’s high-pitched, double entendres and musical performances are a regular riot until the city decides to crackdown on the lowbrow environment the burlesque world entertains.  Chauncey, a republican, believes it is just political grandstanding until he reluctantly becomes the poster boy for free speech and subsequently for gay rights. Lane steps into the role of Chauncey as if he is placing his feet into the most comfortable pair of slippers.  It is made for him and highlights all the attributes that fans have come to love about watching Nathan Lane on stage or on film.  A true comedian, his timing is impeccable and his delivery of the material truly deserves the standing ovation given by the audience at the end of the show.  What Audrey Hepburn did for the character of Holly Golightly, I believe Lane has done for the character of Chauncey Miles.  He has given the role unmistakable life that will not easily be duplicated.

productionphoto3.THENANCEDouglas Carter Beane – With all the flowers, and some weeds, that sprouted on Broadway this spring, playwright Douglas Carter Beane has created a rare rose.  Beane not only offered audiences a peek into the world of burlesque, he also featured a glimpse of the New York City and the world pre-Stonewall and created a direct line to the issues the LGBT community still face in the 21st century with style and humor.   There is no part of this story that lags; it is a Babe Ruth home run out of the park. 

John Lee Beatty – When a production is running on all cylinders, the set design is a crucial element to its viability.   John Lee Beatty’s set design is as vital to The Nance as New York City is to Law and Order.  It is without a doubt the silent character.  His swiveling sets allow the actors to change scenes without switching gears and make the transition between The Irving Place Theatre and Chauncey’s apartment flawless.  The sets permit the audience to ride side-by-side with the cast on a journey back into time courtesy of Douglas Carter Beane’s wonderful script.

productionphoto4.THENANCEJonny Orsini – What a cutie pie!  He steams up the stage of the Lyceum Theatre with his nude scene and smile that can be seen in the last row of the balcony.  Orsini plays Ned, Chauncey’s younger, naive love interest.   Chauncey believes picking Ned up would only result in a one night love affair, but Ned’s tenderness uncovers another layer to Chauncey’s cynical New York veneer.  Orsini and Lane create authentic chemistry.

The members of Irving Place Theatre – Chauncey’s act at the Irving Place Theatre aren’t a one man show.  Members Efram, Sylvie, Joan and Carmen help to generate the laughs and raw emotion that make The Nance a smash.  The quirky show business family they produce made me want to hop out of my seat and join the circus.   

Individually, the parts of this production are great, but together The Nance explodes with emotive fervor.  It’s an instant classic!  I suggest meeting the cast around the corner of W. 45th Street and checking out a fantastic show.

Photos: Joan Marcus

Love in Bloom

On a stage at the Westside Theatre, located at 407 West 43rd Street, the house lights dim and the stage lights brighten, a young girl with a shaggy blonde cut and pink nightie is sprawled unconscious across the bed, the oven door is open and “What the World Needs Now Is Love” is skipping on a record player.  If not for the intervention of a geeky Good Samaritan, the young girl would be a goner.  Sounds like a scene from Promises, Promises, right?  But it is actually the opening scene of the hilarious revival of Cactus FlowerCactus Flower debuted at the Royal Theatre on December 8, 1965 with Lauren Bacall, Barry Nelson, Brenda Vaccaro and Burt Brinckerhoff completing the original cast.  After a close to three year run, the show closed and in 1969, it was adapted into a film starring Ingrid Berman, Walter Matthau and Goldie Hawn.  There is no question of the show’s success as Vaccaro and Brinckerhoff were nominated for Tony Awards and Hawn won an Oscar, but the question that lingers for me is was this farce about love written by Abe Burrows or Puck?  Cleary Burrows took inspiration from those misguided lovers from Athens and like A Midsummer Night’s Dream this romantic comedy is just as zany and genius as the Shakespeare classic. 

Cactus Flower grows around the love lives, and in a certain case lack thereof, of Dr. Julian Winston, Toni Simmons and Stephanie Dickinson.  Julian is a good looking, middle-aged Park Avenue dentist and one hell of a ladies’ man.  He claims to love Toni, a bright-eyed hopeless romantic that is in love with Julian despite the fact that he has told her that he is married with three kids.  What makes this idyllic young girl love the dentist is his honesty about his ball and chains, but what she doesn’t know is that his wife and kids are figments of his imagination – an embellished cover to protect his liaisons.  After Igor, the young, geeky writer next door, saves Toni from certain doom, Julian decides to marry her.  But there is a problem, his wife and kids.  Toni demands to meet his wife to ensure that she also consents to the divorce.  Enter Stephanie, Julian’s old maid secretary.  Last time she had a good time Eisenhower probably was in office.  Her thorny, abrasive demeanor and efficiency in taking care of Julian mask her love for the good denstist.  Julian, after much convincing, enlists Stephanie to help him in his web of lies, and the rollercoaster of laughs start from there.  While keeping up his façade, thus keeping Toni in the dark , Julian winds up falling for Stephanie and Toni realizes that Igor is the man for her. 

This revival of Cactus Flower tickles the funny bone and blossoms with stellar performances.   Maxwell Caulfield may be best known for being Sandy’s cousin in Grease 2 and for his stint on Dynasty and The Colby’s, but as the philandering Dr. Julian, Caulfield is both deceitfully charming and amusing.  Jenni Barber as Toni is probably the most delightful scatterbrain I have ever seen.   Throughout the play her dizziness can drive you to want to jump on stage and shake until she finally displays a modicum of sense, but her immature quest to find perfection in love is admirable.  Barber’s portrayl of the idealistic, young Toni is infectious.  The character of Stephanie is the true star of the story.  She is the cactus flower, prickly and barren that eventually bursts with femininity and sensuality.  Lois Robbins simply flourishes as Stephanie Dickinson.  She is witty, venerable at times and funny all the time.  Stephanie may be the personification of a cactus flower, but Robbins is no shrinking violet.  Her performance is as sweet as a rose.  Jeremy Bobb is droll is the Igor Sullivan, the writer from next door.  He knows his position and plays it well.  The definite scene stealers in this production are John Herrera, Anthony Reimer and Robin Skye.  Their portrayals as Señor Arturo Sanchez, Harvey Greenfield and Mrs. Durant are thigh-slapping, laugh-out-loud humorous.  Anna Louizos received a Tony nomination for her set designs for In the Heights and High Fidelity.   She creates another stunning visual setting to accompany a great cast of actors and direction from Michael Bush.  Although the changes throughout the scenes were not seamless, it in no way diminished the authenticity of the show nor pulled the audience out of the fantasy.  Cactus Flower’s new run will end at the Westside Theatre on May 29.  I assure you, a desert plant has never been so entertaining.  Cactus Flower provides a great 60s soundtrack, lively performances and smiles that will keep growing for days. 

Photos courtesy of O&M Co.