tales from the criterion closet

The Stephen Sondheim–Nathan Lane Broadway Collab That Could Have Been

New York is back, baby, which means the Criterion closet is officially open for its Closet Picks YouTube series. Have you watched? Kim Cattrall and Bill Hader are wonderful starting places. Nathan Lane stopped by for his tote full of swag, and was as charming as ever. Among his picks: Rififi, Elaine May’s Mikey and Nicky, Heaven Can Wait, and Being There. Lane extolled the virtues of the Peter Sellers–Hal Ashby collab, and dished that he’d wanted to make a Being There collab of his own with Stephen Sondheim. “I sort of retired from musicals,” Lane says, “but I went through a period where I thought if I was going to to a musical, I’d want to do a musical of Being There.” He went so far as to ask Sondheim if he’d be interested in the project, to which Sondheim said “No ❤️.”

“I asked Sondheim if he’d be interested in doing it, and he said, ‘But the central character is a cipher. He doesn’t sing.’ And I said, ‘I know, but it forces other people to sing at him.’ I said, ‘That’s an interesting dynamic, don’t you think?’” Sondheim did not think. Anyway, Lane goes on to say part of the appeal is that, as Chance the Gardener, he wouldn’t have to sing until the first-act finale. Alas, what could have been!

Nathan Lane Wanted to Make Being There a Broadway Hit