Byline: David Gates, Malcolm Jones and John Horn
Sprungtime for 'Producers'
The vernal equinox doesn't come until March 20, but springtime for Nathan Lane begins three days early; on the 17th, he and costar Matthew Broderick finally get sprung from the grueling, perennially sold-out Broadway run of "The Producers." So far this year, Lane's voice problems--doctors found a polyp on his vocal cords back in November--and Broderick's flu have resulted in the two stars' appearing together in only about one performance out of five. "Both of these guys have left their bodies on the field for us," one (real-life) producer said. Lane is leaving the field to the distinguished British stage actor Henry Goodman, who last year won the Olivier Award (think Tony, but tonier) for his Shylock in the Royal National Theater's "Merchant of Venice." (Yes, he can do American accents; he was also Roy Cohn in the London "Angels in America.") Broderick's replacement is likely to be Steven Weber of ABC's "Once and Again." Meanwhile, Lane has signed on for a CBS sitcom called "Life of the Party," in which he'll play a TV actor turned congressman. Lane didn't do too well with his last sitcom, 1998-99's "Encore! Encore!" but we imagine this time he'll bring down the House. Prosecution Needs a Rest What's up with America's big-ticket pop novelists, anyway? Two weeks ago Stephen King threatened to retire, and now John Grisham says he's getting tired of grinding out legal thrillers. We began to suspect it last year, when he published "A Painted House," a partly autobiographical story of a Southern childhood, and the slim comic novel "Skipping Christmas," which quickly sold out its 1. …