The Nance

You may not know what The Nance is; you may simply know it as “that play Nathan Lane is in.” Well, you’re right. This is quite the vehicle for a first-rate Nathan Lane performance, and I’m very glad I got to witness it up close and personal. As for the rest of the scoop, here are the basics you need to know.

The Nance is a new play by Douglas Carter Beane (known for The Little Dog Laughed and Xanadu) centered around Chauncey Miles (Lane), a burlesque performer. We find ourselves in Manhattan in 1937, and the law is starting to come down hard on burlesque shows and what is considered appropriate (and inappropriate) for the stage. In Chauncey’s vaudeville act, the double-entendres fly as he relishes in his primary character, “the Nance.” The nance is essentially a campy stereotype of a gay man, also referred to at the time as a pansy. Despite playing a very popular (and very funny) nance onstage, Chauncey is expected to hide his homosexuality everywhere else. On a stunning rotating set, we follow Chauncey and the people in his life, laughing with them every step of the way, even though we know deep down that darker times are quickly approaching.

A brief note on the Tony nominations. I am honestly shocked this wasn’t nominated for Best Play this season (it did receive five nominations total), and yet Beane’s book for Cinderella, which I’m sorry to say I couldn’t stand, did nab a nomination. The Nance as a whole is a little scattered in regard to the themes it wants to cover in a short amount of time, but the characters are strong and the story engrossing.

As for the performances, they were fantastic across the board. It goes without saying that Nathan is a powerhouse force to be reckoned with. He could win the Tony for this Mama Rose type of role. The supporting cast is also wonderful, particularly Jonny Orsini as Chauncey’s lover. As my friend put it, Orsini was “deceptively good.” In the beginning I was not enjoying his work, but later in Act I, I realized how excellent he really was and how enthralled I was with his character’s arc, watching him find himself over the course of the play. Lewis J. Stadlen, as Chauncey’s partner in the show within a show, added great comedy, and Cady Huffman (The Producers reunion!), Andréa Burns, and Jenni Barber were terrific as well. So yes! Overall, I very much enjoyed this production and recommend checking it out, especially to those of you who have not had the opportunity to see Nathan Lane perform live.

The Nance
Written by Douglas Carter Beane, Directed by Jack O’Brien
Lyceum Theatre
Photo Credit: LCT Poster Artwork
Pictured: Nathan Lane

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