Nathan Lane clears schedule for 'The Producers' reprisal

— Nathan Lane is getting closer to returning to Broadway as the rapscallion Max Bialystock in "The Producers."

The actor has cleared his schedule for early 2004, making it more likely that he and Matthew Broderick, the original stars of the smash Mel Brooks musical, will be able to come back to the show in January for three months. The two actors have been negotiating to rejoin the New York production.

Lane had a commitment to star in "Butley," a play by Simon Gray, for Boston's Huntington Theatre Company from Jan. 2 through Feb. 1.

The play -- a dark comic story of a self-destructive English professor -- has been rescheduled for Oct. 24-Nov. 30 with Lane still in the title role, the Huntington announced Thursday.

That spot in the Huntington's fall season was previously announced for the world premiere of "The Paris Letter," a new play by Jon Robin Baitz about a Wall Street executive whose life begins to crumble.

"The Paris Letter" will be postponed indefinitely "due to artist's scheduling difficulties," Huntington spokeswoman Dina Croce said. The January slot for "Butley" will be filled by "Bad Dates," a comedy written by Theresa Rebeck and starring Julie White.

Lane will, however, be on a New York stage before going to Boston. He opens off-Broadway Sept. 4 in "Trumbo," about blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter and novelist Dalton Trumbo. It begins preview performances Aug. 26 and opens Sept. 4. Lane will appear in the show through Sept. 21.

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