A Musical Celebration of Broadway honoring Nathan Lane
By: Patrick Christiano
November 5, 2018: Some of Broadway and Hollywood’s brightest stars turned out to honor the incomparable Nathan Lane, a three-time Tony Award winning star of film, television and theater. The event at The Plaza Hotel, a festive musical celebration hosted by Matthew Broderick, was the Drama League’s 35th annual benefit gala, and-also honored producer Fran Weissler for Visionary Leadership in the American Theater.
Andrea Martin had the packed house singing along on Stephen Schwartz’ “No Time At All,” from Pippin. She pulled out all the stops on the classic about taking time to live because nothing is set in stone.
Tony Award winning director Diane Paulus, an alumnus of the Drama League program, presented the Visionary Award to theater producer Fran Weissler, a winner of 7 Tony Awards for her Broadway productions. Paulus said, “We are in the room with Fran, she sees everything and takes it in, she has the experience of a life in the theater, and always has clarity because she speaks from the heart.”
Accepting her award Weissler said, “I can’t believe you are standing for a producer.” She proceeded to tell a witty and enlightening story about her and her husband’s journey into producing. The Jewish couple played to Catholic schools for 16 years perfecting their craft before becoming successful on Broadway.
The evening, a one-night-only musical tribute to Mr. Lane and his illustrious career, also featured appearances by Christine Baranski, Josh Charles, Billy Eichner, Brita Filter, Santino Fontana, Mark Linn-Baker, Alex Newell, Ernie Sabella, Jarrod Spector, Stephanie’s Child, Teal Wicks, R.L. Stine, Susan Stroman, and Jerry Zaks. A highlight was Stephanie’s Child, a trio of fantastic drag queens, singing “We Are Family.”
When it came time for Mr. Lane to accept his award, he did not disappoint and was his inimitable self. Taking the stage Mr. Lane said,“I knew I should have smoked a joint. This is overwhelming, incredible, gratifying and mortifying.” Going on he elaborated, “Terrifying? I ask myself, when did I turn into Angela Lansbury?” In closing Lane thanked his husband, Devlin and commented, “There are no people like show people. They just show up and do it. I’m humbled so many showed up.”
Drama League Directors Project alum West Hyler directed and co-wrote the program, with Laura Brandel an associate director. The 35th Annual Benefit Gala is produced by Drama League Associate Producer Travis LeMont Ballenger with Gala Associate Producer Sean Gorski. The creative team included David Evans (music direction), Alessandra Marconi (choreography), Timothy Huang (additional lyrics), Melissa Spengler-Winner (production stage management), Nick Kolin (lighting design), Michael Tracey (sound design), Whitney Locher (costume design).
The Gala Co-Chairs are Kathy Henderson, Janet M. Kagan, and Joseph Pizza; Leadership support for The Benefit Gala is also provided by its Vice Chairs: Art Lab LLC, Anna May & Tim Feige, Fearless Productions LLC, Una Jackman & Jay Alix, Mary Jain, Chip & Cindy Murphy, Stan Ponte & John Metzner, and JoAnn & John Weisel. The Benefit Gala Committee members are Bonnie Comley & Stewart F. Lane, Leslie C. Feldman, Robert Jezowski, and The Leo Shull Foundation for the Arts. Sceneworks Studios is a Major Sponsor of the 2018 Benefit Gala. MAC Cosmetics is the Official Make- Up Partner of The Drama League.
Gala Production Director: West Hyler. Gala Producer: Travis LeMont Ballenger. Gala Co-Chairs are Kathy Henderson, Janet M. Kagan, and Joseph Pizza. The Drama League: Board President Stan Ponte. Executive Artistic Director Gabriel Stelian-Shanks.