From Philly to Broadway: How James T. Lane made it to Broadway
On June 10th I got to interview Kiss Me, Kate Broadway’s standout, James T. Lane.
What I hadn’t thought about was it was the morning after the Tonys. Which is notoriously the longest day on Broadway, every show starts at their theaters at 6 am. From there they get into costumes and buses down to Radio City Music Hall, where the Tony awards take place. They do a full run of the ceremony order including their performances then they head back to their theaters for the matinee performance! That’s right, no days off. After the matinee, it’s Tony time! They assemble the glam squads then head to the biggest night on Broadway.
After all the red-carpet fun is done, it’s time to perform and cheer on some friends! After the event, you’d think it’s time to go home right? Nope! It’s After Party time! Which means the morning after is time to recover for these broadway stars but luckily James took on this interview.
How are you feeling after last night?
James: I am feeling a few things! He laughs. Well first, about two hours after I got off the stage I was on the massage table because it had been a very very long day. We started at 5:30 in the morning and we didn’t get back to theater till about 10:30 (pm).
Oooh fix it Jesus!
James: Yes! Jesus was on duty yesterday! We had a show, so it was amazing. It was wonderful and amazing, and the exhaustion was well worth the connectivity that the Tony awards kind of day gives you. You know, it celebrates the community, you get to see all your friends so that’s exciting. You kind of have to put the pot on a slow boil all day or you’ll get yourself in trouble. You’ll look around and you’re 40 miles away from a gas station and you’re on E, so you can’t play that game. You’ve got to be smart about it. I really felt that something kind of significant happened last night for me, shift wise in the energy. I don’t know really how to describe it except for that something has changed within the matrix! So I’m grateful for that.
Where does your story begin and how did you get into theatre?
James: Oh goodness! Well, I’m from Philadelphia and I was lucky enough to have a mother who wanted me in a good elementary school. We grew up in the projects in another neighborhood in south Philly but we said we lived at my Grandmother’s house so that I could go to a better school in a better neighborhood. The school was William Meredith school, and it happened to be an elementary school for the performing arts. My first dance class was there, with Cheryl Sheppard and her dance class at age 7, and I peed all over the floor the first day.
James: So yeah, that’s where it began in Philadelphia. I just stuck with it, I wasn’t very good but I loved it!
Yeah been there! So where did you go to college?
James: Well I started out at Carnegie Mellon University on a full scholarship and it wasn’t the right fit for me, so I transferred to Penn State University and that was a better fit. But then I left and went to work, so I never finished school.
You better be booked! So how would you describe those school audition processes?
James: For me, I was coming into auditioning for colleges at an age when computers and emails and all of that was just starting. So we had computer class in high school, and people would be playing games like Oregon Trail and stuff like that. But I would type out letters to the colleges that I was auditioning at before I auditioned. Because I knew I’d have to get a full scholarship because I didn’t have any money. So I basically recruited the schools before they recruited me. So when I walked in the door for the audition, they were like “Oh this is James! He sent us the letter..” So I gave myself a head start and then I came in with what I had talent wise and that separated me from other folks.
So I was really stacking my own deck. Because you know, if you don’t come from much you’ve got to come with something. So the audition process was pretty easy because I felt at home in the rooms. So I did that to all the schools I auditioned for and I got six or seven full scholarships to schools and I picked Carnegie Mellon.
After you left school what was it like your first couple of years auditioning?
James: Well like I said, I left school early and went to Europe to work on the European tour of ‘Fame’ the musical for a while. So I was just on tour with Fame in Europe then I came and did the US national tour then I tore my Achilles tendon, which changed everything. So that was a real tough time for me because I identified so much with my talent that I had to go on a journey of finding out who I was as a person. Separate from people applauding or dance class or singing the high note. I had to discover who I was and I had a really tough time. I partied way too much and got addicted to drugs and I was out there for four and a half/five years, I was arrested, it was terrible.
But finally, I got myself together and it was talent and wanting to get back to being a creative person artistically. And with a lot of help I got myself back together in 2004. Then I had to start back at the bottom, meaning the beginning of a career. Doing community theatre in Philadelphia, which lead to the Prince theatre, which lead to the Walden Street theatre, which lead to an open call for A Chorus Line.
An open call for my first Broadway show.
It was an open call where everybody can come! Your mother, your brother, your grandma, anybody can be there, and they were! After she finished teaching the combination in that audition, Baayork Lee said “Who wants to go first?” and I raised my hand. And she said “Okay Richie! Come on Richie!” And I got my first Broadway show from that open call of A Chorus Line.
There are two more parts of this interview that cover his time on Broadway in King Kong and Chicago and how he’s keeping it ‘Too Darn Hot’ in Roundabout Theatre’s revival of Kiss Me, Kate. You can follow James on instagram and twitter here! For more Beyond the Stage Door, click here!