Martin Short to Step Into 'It's Only a Play' on Broadway

Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Martin Short

The actor will join the starry ensemble of the hit Terrence McNally comedy in an extension of its limited engagement, replacing Nathan Lane, who leaves to honor a prior commitment

What's a producer to do when his play is a smash and one of the headlining box office draws has a contract with a hard end date? Bring in another star, of course.

Martin Short, who won a Tony Award in 1999 for the musical Little Me and was last on Broadway in the 2006 production of his sketch-comedy vehicle Martin Short: Fame Becomes Me, will take over for Nathan Lane in the lead role of Terrence McNally's comedy, It's Only a Play.

Produced by Tom Kirdahy, Roy Furman and Ken Davenport, the play was planned as a limited engagement through Jan. 4. But business has been through the roof since the starry production began previews at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre at the end of August, gaining more steam since the official Oct. 9 opening.

Read more 'It's Only a Play': Theater Review

Directed by Jack O'Brien, the production has consistently been playing to sellout houses and grossing more than $1 million a week, with last week's tally hitting $1,338,059. Cumulative box office to date stands at $12.2 million.

Set in the Manhattan home of a neophyte Broadway producer, the comedy chronicles the opening-night jitters of the cast and creative team of a new play as they anxiously await the reviews. Short will step into the role of James Wicker, the two-faced best friend of the nervous playwright. A former stage actor who has found success in a network TV series, James flies in for the premiere, rubbing his hands with glee when all signs point to it being a flop.

Read more Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick on Their Broadway Reunion

In addition to Lane, the original cast includes Matthew Broderick, F. Murray Abraham, Stockard Channing, Rupert Grint, Megan Mullally and newcomer Micah Stock, all of whom are expected to remain with the production for the extension, currently through March 29.

Due to a conflicting booking, the production will also change venues for part of the extension, moving from the Schoenfeld next door to the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre from Jan. 23. Next tenant at the Schoenfeld is Stephen Daldry's production of Peter Morgan's The Audience, starring Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II. That play begins previews Feb. 17 for a March 8 opening.

Lane leaves It's Only a Play Jan. 4 to honor his previous commitment to reprise the lead role in Eugene O'Neill's epic drama The Iceman Cometh as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's theater season. A transfer of the critically acclaimed Robert Falls production first seen at Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 2012, that play runs Feb. 5 through March 15, co-starring Brian Dennehy.