At the Tony Awards this month, when Nathan Lane collected his third statuette, he gave an emotional shoutout to Andrew Garfield, his “Angels in America” co-star, to Devlin Elliott, his husband … and to Ken Brown, his dresser for the past 26 years.
“He’s really great at it,” Lane tells The Post. “He’s part therapist and friend. And, if something rips or a button comes off, he’s like a medic in the army — he can run out and repair your wounds!”
“Angels” is their 14th show together, a journey that began in 1992, at the smash revival of “Guys and Dolls.” Brown was assigned to dress its star, Peter Gallagher, “and Nathan came with the deal,” he says.
The two men clicked, and when Lane got his next show, he asked Brown to join him. They’ve worked together ever since.
“I think I give him consistency,” says Brown, a tall, bespectacled 63-year-old whose salary is paid not by Lane, but whatever production he’s in. “Nathan knows that I’ll be there for him.”
‘Nathan knows that I’ll be there for him.’
And Brown has been, scheduling vacations and even surgery around the star’s commitments, and, when Lane’s off making movies, filling in on other shows whenever and wherever its wardrobe department needs him. But while he’s dressed others — Tyne Daly and Whoopi Goldberg among them — there’s no one he’s worked with longer than Lane. They have a shared passion for theater and what the actor calls “a very old-fashioned” need to do things well.
“We’re working toward the same goal,” Brown says. “He’s trying so hard, and anything I can do, I do.”
It helps that Brown has an eagle eye for details. (“You missed a loop on your watch strap,” he told a reporter, and he was right.) Years ago, while awaiting a cue at “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” Lane touched his pocket and flinched. Brown, realizing the actor had forgotten a prop, ran to the dressing room, retrieved it and gave it to another actor to sneak to Lane onstage. The scene unfolded without a hitch.
At “The Producers,” Brown finessed a quickie costume change — ascot, smoking jacket and all — in 12 seconds flat. And when Lane landed with a thud during a bungee jump for “The Frogs,” Brown said what everyone else was loath to admit: “I think we should get the understudy ready.” They did, and Lane, rested and recovered, was able to finish the run.
After “Angels” ends, on July 15, Lane says he plans to “lie down for a month or two.”
And Brown? He’ll be at “Hello, Dolly!” — doing the laundry.
“You have to do whatever’s available or necessary,” he says. “They offered it to me, and I’m grateful. And lucky. I’ve worked on so many great shows.”
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