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Nathan Lane comes to rescue for ‘Producers’

Tony winner last-minute replacement for Dreyfuss in London show
/ Source: The Associated Press

Broadway star Nathan Lane is dashing over to Britain to reprise his Tony Award-winning role in the London production of “The Producers” after Richard Dreyfuss pulled out at the last minute.

The musical’s producers at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane said that the Academy Award-winning Dreyfuss was forced to forfeit the plum role of Max Bialystock because of continuing complications from surgery earlier this year.

“Following his surgery for a herniated disc in January and the reoccurrence of a shoulder injury, it has become increasingly difficult for Mr. Dreyfuss to fulfill the rigors of the role, and it is with regret that both parties have had to make this decision,” the producers said Monday in a statement.

“The producers are grateful to Mr. Dreyfuss for his artistry and all his work on their behalf, and hope that he will be able to rejoin the company when his physical condition permits.”

Lane, 48, will have little time to brush up on his lines — producers said the show’s schedule will remain unchanged, with previews beginning on Friday and the show opening on Nov. 9. Lane, who won the Tony 2001 for his role in the Broadway version of the Mel Brooks musical in 2001, will join the show on a temporary basis until Jan. 8.

Lane has a prolific record of work on Broadway, including roles in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “Guys and Dolls.” However, his appearance in the London production of “The Producers” marks his West End stage debut.

The musical is based on Brooks’ 1968 campy movie in which the immortal scamsters Max Bialystock and Leopold Bloom raise more money than is needed to put on a flop musical. They plan to run off with the excess when the show, “Springtime for Hitler,” closes. Of course, it is a hit.

“The Producers” requires the actor playing Bialystock to carry out energetic song and dance routines.

Dreyfuss, who won a best actor Oscar for “The Goodbye Girl,” recently explained he took on the challenge to take a break from movies, but also joked during rehearsals that his body was suffering from the demands of the part. “The trouble is I’m not actually here. I am here in London but my body hasn’t actually arrived yet,” he said. “But it will. Next week, or next month. Definitely some time before the first night.”

Dreyfuss was not available for comment Monday.