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Susan Granger's review of 'The Nance'

Published 2:24 pm, Friday, June 27, 2014
  • Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "The Nance." Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed / New Canaan News Contributed
    Our film critic, Susan Granger, reviews "The Nance." Photo: Contributed Photo, Contributed

 

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Screenvision has an exciting new venture: bringing Broadway shows to 300 movie theaters around the country. Coordinating with Gay Pride Week in many cities and in cooperation with New York's Lincoln Center, it's presenting Nathan Lane in "The Nance," Douglas Carter Beane's three-time Tony-winning 2013 play.

Nance, or nancy boy, is a disparaging term for an effeminate man, yet "pansy acts" were popular in theaters during the 1920s and `30s, along with blackface performers. This drama revolves around deeply conflicted Chauncey Miles (Nathan Lane), a kind, sensitive and wonderfully witty burlesque comic, living in the dangerous, clandestine gay subculture at a time when homosexuals were subject to arrest on orders of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia in preparation for the 1939 World's Fair.

Directed on stage by Jack O'Brien and for the-screen by Matthew Diamond with Andrew C. Wilk as executive producer, the ensemble features Jenni Barber, Andrea Burns, Cady Huffman, Mylinda Hull, Geoffrey Allen Murphy, Jonny Orsini and Lewis J. Stadlen. The revolving sets were designed by John Lee Beatty with vintage costumes by Ann Roth, lighting by Japhy Weideman, sound by Leon Rothenberg, music by Glen Kelly, orchestrations by Larry Blank, hair/wigs by David Brian Brown and choreography by Joey Pizzi.

For this touching performance of campy clowning, Lane ("The Producers," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum") received Tony and Drama Desk nominations and won the Outer Critics Circle Award, along with the Drama League Distinguished Performance Award. After many years of negotiation, producers now see such theatrical engagements as a win-win for everyone, particularly since audiences who never get to see Broadway shows now can catch them at a theater near their home for a fraction of the price.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "The Nance" is a classy, timely 10, combining comedy and pathos. If it interests you, go now because it's only playing a limited engagement until June 30, although it will be rebroadcast on PBS stations around the country this fall as part of the "Live From Lincoln Center" series.