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It's Oscar night all year: as Nathan Lane's understudy, out actor Brad Oscar often played the lead in The Producers--but now it's his to keep. (arts & entertainment).

Not long ago Brad Oscar was just another loveless schlump on Broadway earning bad reviews. Now he has an adoring boyfriend, a Tony nomination under his belt, and, since April, the leading role in Broadway's hottest musical.

"I'm still pinching myself," says the 37-year-old actor, his elastic eyebrows practically leaping off his forehead. "I keep thinking, Is this my life?" Oscar's good fortune began last year when he was cast as Nathan Lane's understudy in The Producers, Mel Brooks's stage adaptation of his comic film about two shysters who attempt to bilk investors with an intended theatrical flop called Springtime for Hitler. During rehearsals for Brooks's show, however, one of the key performers had to bow out for knee surgery. Oscar was asked to step in, taking over the role of the deliciously demented Nazi playwright Franz Liebkind, equipped with his own showstopping number.

Oscar received rave reviews and an eventual Tony nomination, all the while continuing as Lane's understudy, performing the lead of Max Bialystock more than 70 times. So when Lane and his costar, Matthew Broderick, in the role of Leo Bloom, left the show in March and actors Henry Goodman and Steven Weber, respectively, took over the parts, Oscar admits being disappointed.

"Of course, in the back of my mind--well, in front of it--I thought, Gee, what's going to happen?" he recalls of Lane's departure. "I knew that everybody had been very happy with what I'd been doing. Certainly I hoped that I would get a chance to play the role eight times a week, but when they decided to bring in two new guys, I totally understood. They wanted to keep the rest of the show intact, and I already had my own role, which I absolutely loved."

Yet to the shock of the theater community, British thespian Goodman was let go after four weeks. And Oscar was finally given the role. "Henry is an extraordinarily talented guy," Oscar explains. "But for whatever reason, things weren't landing or developing as [Brooks and director Susan Stroman] wanted."

Oscar had two weeks to polish his performance and chemistry with Weber (of television's Wings and the film Jeffrey) until the critics returned. Despite generally favorable notices, comparisons with Lane and Broderick were inevitable. "Steven and I knew a lot of reviews were going to be comparative," he says. "How could they not be? God knows, Nathan's a force of nature and will always be the definitive Max Bialystock. Anyone coming into that situation is going to be compared. That's the nature of the beast."

Born and raised in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., Oscar says he has wanted to do musical theater since he was a kid "wearing out his parents' Mame album." As a young adult, he did community theater before attending Boston University's demanding acting program. His Broadway break came at an open call for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love. "My two previous Broadway credits, Aspects and Jekyll & Hyde, were shows that I would say pretty much got slammed by critics," he says. "This is the first time I've been a part of a Broadway phenomenon."

With a contract to play Bialystock through December, Oscar is concentrating on balancing a demanding role with his first serious relationship. ("He's been nothing but supportive and proud of me," Oscar says of his boyfriend, David, also an actor.) After that, anything's possible with Oscar's luck and dancing eyebrows: movies, sitcoms, the part of a cuddly teacup in some animated Disney flick. "People in the business are now aware of me because of this," he says. "And that's haft the battle, just having people know who you are."

Bahr also writes for The New York Times and Time Out New York.
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Article Details
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Author:Bahr, David
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 23, 2002
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