Sunday, March 17, 2002

A few months back, I postulated that Nathan Lane's throat problems might force him to leave the hit Broadway show The Producers before his contract ran out. I further went on to guess that, in keeping with the recent trend of having television and recording stars headline musicals, Jason Alexander might step into Lane's role of Max Bialystock. Alexander's sitcom Bob Patterson had just been cancelled, and I felt he had the chops to do Bialystock right.

I was quite serious about that guess, and also quite wrong. I never heard so much as a whisper about Alexander joining the show. In fact, I was so wrong it seemed clear I was just hopelessly naive about the subject. There was no way the folks in charge of the biggest show to hit Broadway in twenty years were going to choose some sitcom actor to replace one of the original leads.

Fast forward to today. As I type this, Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick are in the middle of their final performance of the show. When the curtain next goes up on Tuesday, British actor Henry Goodman will be playing Lane's part, and Broderick's role of Leo Bloom will be filled by Steven Weber, formerly of the long-running sitcom Wings. So I had the right idea, just the wrong role and actor.

Only time will tell if Weber can pull this off. He's always struck me as a solid journeyman actor, but not much more. On Wings, that odd amalgamation of Cheers and Taxi set in a small-town airport, Weber played his role competently, essentially staying at the same level as the mediocre material he was given. I've only seen him in one remarkable project, the wonderful slice-of-gay-life in New York City film, Jeffrey. As the title character, Weber mostly stayed out of the way of the other actors, including Patrick Stewart in his brilliant turn as interior designer and "Pink Panther," Sterling.

The reviews for the new Bialystock and Bloom will probably be out in a few days. I'll be taking note of what the critics have to say, to see if Weber can rise above his former work and fill Broderick's very big shoes.

So much for the idea of Senator Tipper Gore. She's decided against running for her husband's old seat. I'm proud to have been on the bandwagon for its last day of existence.
Posted @ 3:50 PM


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