An Exclusive Interview with Legendary Broadway
Producer Stewart Lane
Stewart Lane with his Tony
What a thrill it was to chat
with this legendary icon of the Broadway stage! I very quickly
discovered that Mr. Stewart Lane is more than brilliant, fun, warm,
generous, an exhilarating person to speak with, an amazing human
being, who totally and completely LOVES the theater and all it
encompasses unconditionally, AND BEST OF ALL, how truly DOWN TO
EARTH he is! If anyone is in the dark about this abundantly talented
man, let me share just a little bit of his background with you.
Stewart Lane is the proud recipient of four Tony Awards.
This Broadway producer’s credits include more than 20 Broadway shows
and numerous others in London, Ireland and the U.S. He has been
nominated for the Tony Award 8 times. He won his Tonys for
“Thoroughly Modern Millie,” “The Will Rogers Follies,” “La Cage aux
Folles,” and his latest for “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only,” with
his lovely wife Bonnie Comley. In his own words, he states, “Winning
a Tony never gets old. Trust me!” Lane has also received two Drama
Desk Awards, two Telly Awards, the Drama Critics Award, the Outer
Critics Circle Award, and a Western Heritage Wrangler Award. In
addition to Jay Johnson, the renowned Lane is currently producing
the Tony nominated “Legally Blonde-The Musical.”
Lane is the co-owner and operator of the Palace Theater in New York
City. In addition, he has written two plays which are produced
Off-Broadway, and regionally: “In the Wings” and “If it was Easy.”
He has also served for eleven years on the Board of Governors of the
League of American Theatres and Producers. One can only ponder how
this truly amazing talented man finds time for it all, let alone
being a husband and father?
But wait, there’s more!
Stewart Lane has just come out with his latest book, “Let’s Put on a
Show.” I will not spoil it for you… I just want to let you know that
the book aims to help those who want to be involved with producing
shows. In other words, it is like a theatre production guide for
Now that you know who Stewart Lane is, let’s get to
the personal interview, shall we?
RR: How do you decide and
pick a show to produce? Is it the hit potential, the storyline, or
SL: I primarily look for a character driven
story, whether it is a musical or a play. I am not dealing with
special effects or car chases, I am dealing with characters that
will be engaging and challenging for an audience. Having said that,
what does come into play is when you’re looking for a recognizable
title for a show. For example, with “Legally Blonde,” you’re already
dealing with an established entity which helps you sell the show.
Same thing goes when dealing with revivals. Primary, it’s the
content of the play!
RR: When and how did you get started in
SL: I fell in love with the theatre at an early
age. I grew up in an area called Kings Point about 35 minutes
outside of Manhattan. From third through fifth grades, I was best
friends with this guy Ricky. We always hung out after school and I’d
see his father hanging out at four in the afternoon at home walking
around in his smoking jacket. I’d say, “Ricky, doesn’t your dad
like, ya know, work for a living?” He said, “No, my dad is an actor.
He works at night!” I was intrigued with the concept that his dad
only worked at night while everyone else knocked their head against
the wall during the day. I was invited to Ricky’s dad’s Broadway
show, my first Broadway show. It was so exciting to me to see a real
Broadway theater, the show, the actors, the audience, the Playbill
and going back stage afterwards. Everything about it was so very
thrilling. We go into the front row of “Little Me” starring Ricky’s
father, Sid Caesar! The whole experience made me realize that this
is great! From then on, from 11 years old, I knew exactly what I
wanted to do! (The whole story is in his book!)
RR: How did
the idea of turning the movie “Legally Blonde” into a Broadway show
SL: It was such a fun movie and the storyline
was so strong -- and Reese did such a great job in that -- I thought
that this show could be adapted. I had some concerns that some parts
might be too cinematic. The key thing when you convert any movie to
the theater is you have to re-conceive it and think of it in
theatrical ideas with three dimensional people on stage and a live
audience. You have to take away fast editing and special sound
effects. You deal with what you have in your environment.
RR: How involved are you with the casting of your shows?
What makes you drawn to an actor besides a great audition?
SL: It depends on the project. I am not there for the first
round of auditions. Most of the time I get involved with the
callbacks. I let the director filter through the people.
What would you like your fans to know about you?
really believe in the theater. Not only is it an exciting cultural
activity, but it really defines us as a nation and as a people. I’ve
always been proud to be a part of the theatre. We are a young
nation; we are just starting to get ourselves and our theater
RR: What was your greatest triumph?
Hopefully, it has not happened yet and my greatest triumph is yet to
RR: Please tell me a little bit about your book.
SL: It’s a comedic book on how to produce for the theatre.
It is a guideline to help people who want to get involved with the
theatre; whether to start with a community, university or how to
even start a professional regional theatre, this is the kind of book
you need. I go over the main things, like how to pick a season, how
to pick plays, raise money, how to get the community involved. There
is nothing out there like it and I want to see the theatre succeed.
The more theatre we have out there, the better!
RR: What do
you have in the fire now?
SL: I am just about to produce a
show at the Manhattan Theater Club called “The Receptionist” and
that will be opening off-Broadway April 30. It is an exciting,
timeless story and a dynamic play directed by Joe Montana.
RR: Why the theater over film, and would you consider film?
SL: I’ve always enjoyed the personal collaboration you have
with theatre. It’s very intense, when the clock is running, you are
in rehearsals, and the show opens in a certain time. It gets really
compressed. You are living 48 hours in a 24-hour period. After 35
years in the business, I have now just produced two movies which
open in the spring. One is a documentary called “Show Business, The
Road to Broadway.” It chronicles the 2004 Broadway season. Never has
anything been done like this in cinema.
RR: When are
“Legally Blonde” and "Jay Johnson" going to tour?
Johnson: The Two and Only” is presently touring and “Legally Blonde”
will tour the fall of ‘08 and we open in London in the spring of
RR: How are opening nights for you?
nights are great fun for me! Things have changed over the years.
Back in the hay day, the reviews and critics came on opening night.
Today, by the time opening night comes, the critics have already
seen the show. So, come opening night, there are no critics there,
you have all your friends and family, the audience and everyone has
a great time and all the years of work and sweat come together in
this great big celebration.
RR: What show are you the most
proud of in your career?
SL: So far? There are two. One is
“La Cage aux Folles.” I was 33 years old and won my first Tony. It
was an exciting time and it was like a religious experience getting
to work with these wonderful people. To create something that gets
recognized by your peers for its quality is what motivates you to do
RR: What was your proudest moment?
Besides having children? Writing this book was very exciting for me.
I have written two plays, but I have never written a book before.
The process of writing, (14 months), the book signings, etc., was
all exciting for me!
RR: What do you think of the London
theatre compared to our theatre?
SL: What's not to love
about London theatre? Its Shepherd’s Pie and going to dinner at the
Ivy after a show! The London theatre is always great fun. I do
believe in my heart that the English will always do Shakespeare
better than we do, but Americans will always do American plays
better. There is a cultural ingrained knowledge that you have when
you come from a certain country. That is why certain things don’t
travel well. Like comedy doesn’t travel well from London to here.
RR: Tell me about your children.
SL: We have a nice
wide range, three older girls 22, 16, 9 and two boys who will be a
year old in August.
RR: Will they be in the business?
SL: It depends if they need to do it. I started off as an
actor and needed to do it.
Folks, this was one of my most
thrilling interviews. Hearing this tremendous talented man speak was
exhilarating! Each time he just uttered the word, THEATRE, you could
feel his total love and excitement about it! I thank him for taking
the time out from his busy schedule to let us get to know him. To
you Mr. Lane, I give a STANDING OVATION and an enormous BRAVO. I
thank you for all you have given to the theater and to the world. My
review is in and it states, “You are an American icon and