On the Twentieth Century BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Joan Marcus
  • NY TIMES

  • DAILY NEWS

  • NY POST

  • HR

  • VULTURE

Opening Night:
March 15, 2015
Closing:
July 19, 2015

Theater: American Airlines / 227 West 42nd Street, New York, NY, 10036

Synopsis: 

It’s nonstop laughs aboard the Twentieth Century, a luxury train travelling from Chicago to New York City. Luck, love and mischief collide when the bankrupt theater producer Oscar Jaffee (Golden Globe® winner Peter Gallagher) embarks on a madcap mission to cajole glamorous Hollywood starlet Lily Garland (Tony Award® winner Kristin Chenoweth) into playing the lead in his new, non-existent epic drama. But is the train ride long enough to reignite the spark between these former lovers, create a play from scratch, and find the money to get it all the way to Broadway?

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  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF On the Twentieth Century

    ‘On the Twentieth Century,’ With Kristin Chenoweth, Opens on Broadway

    Ben Brantley

    March 15, 2015: In the theater, there is overacting, which is common and painful to watch. Then there’s over-the-moon acting, which is rare and occupies its own special cloud land in heaven. I am delighted to report that this latter art is being practiced in altitudinous-high style at the American Airlines Theater, where Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher are surfing the stratosphere in “On the Twentieth Century.” Scott Ellis’s ripping, lavishly appointed revival of this 1978 musical about dueling giant egos on a train between Chicago and New York — which opened on Sunday night in a Roundabout Theater Company production — knows that when it comes to being hyperbolic, there’s no people like show people. No, not even excitable reviewers like me on the morning after a show like this one. There are so many reasons to celebrate this “On the Twentieth Century,” which features a score by Cy Coleman, with a book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. For starters, it’s that rare revival of a musical that isn’t trucked out every few years, like a wedding dress routinely repurposed as prom wear. (I love “Gypsy” too, but come on, guys.)

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  • NEW YORK DAILY NEWS REVIEW OF On the Twentieth Century

    Kristin Chenoweth the engine of a blissful Broadway revival

    Joe Dziemianowicz

    March 15, 2015: Next stop, Broadway musical bliss. That’s where the Roundabout revival of “On the Twentieth Century,” directed with verve by Scott Ellis, takes you. The setting for this fast-paced, flab-free screwball operetta by Cy Coleman, Betty Comden and Adolph Green is a luxury coach en route from Chicago to New York in the 1930s. The stylish state-of-the-art locomotive by David Rockwell gleams in brilliant Art Deco glory. But that’s nothing compared to the practically nuclear glow that comes off Kristin Chenoweth, whose singular talent and skills are tailor-made for a role originated on Broadway in 1978 by Madeline Kahn. Chenoweth is a stick of blond dynamite, a virtuoso comedian and singer. She uses her petite body, ample bosom and middle finger for a laugh. She hits every high C in the joyous and eclectic score that pushes the plot along expertly.

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  • NEW YORK POST REVIEW OF On the Twentieth Century

    Kristin Chenoweth leads ‘On the Twentieth Century’ to theatrical bliss

    Frank Scheck

    March 15, 2015: “They don’t write dialogue like this anymore,” a producer says, leafing through the Bible in “On the Twentieth Century.” And they don’t write musical comedies like this anymore, either. Gloriously revived by the Roundabout Theatre Company, this 1978 musical — now with sparkling turns by Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher — is a fast-paced romp. Set entirely on the 20th Century Limited train from Chicago to New York, the show — music by Cy Coleman, book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green — barrels down the tracks to theatrical bliss. Chenoweth plays Lily Garland, the movie star whom Oscar Jaffee, Gallagher’s down-on-his-luck producer, sees as his ticket back to the big time. Having transformed her from a mousy backup pianist named Mildred Plotka into a glamorous Hollywood diva, Oscar thinks she owes him.

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  • HOLLYWOOD REPORTER REVIEW OF On the Twentieth Century

    'On the Twentieth Century': Theater Review

    David Rooney

    March 15, 2015: At the top of Act II in "On the Twentieth Century," four tap-dancing redcap Pullman porters work overtime to funnel syncopated energy into the facile analogy of "Life is Like a Train." But this strained farce set in 1932 aboard the luxury Chicago-to-New York express passenger service is a musical stubbornly lacking in locomotion, its steam engine spouting plumes of desperation. Co-stars Kristin Chenoweth and Peter Gallagher give it their all, delivering exactly the kind of over-the-top caricatures the antiquated material demands. However, while director Scott Ellis has a proven track record with comedy, he's off his game in this belabored revival. I should confess straight off that, based on the 1978 original Broadway cast album alone, I've never much cared for the show. The mock operetta idiom adopted by composer Cy Coleman becomes tiresome, and the melodramatic histrionics of the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green lack the lighter-than-air touch of their work on, say, "On the Town." The recording's one bright spot is the peerless Madeline Kahn doing "Babette," a schizophrenic second-act showstopper in which vainglorious diva Lily Garland wrestles with the choice of playing a nobly suffering Mary Magdalene or a Mayfair floozy — "depraved, debauched and déclassé." Claiming vocal fatigue, Kahn abruptly exited the production under a cloud just two months after opening, making her understudy, Judy Kaye, a Broadway star overnight.

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  • VULTURE REVIEW OF On the Twentieth Century

    A Little Engine Keeps On the Twentieth Century Moving

    Jesse Green

    March 15, 2015: There are a million big reasons that "On the Twentieth Century," the 1978 musical by Cy Coleman and Comden and Green, shouldn’t work today: It’s profoundly silly, tonally tricky, too big for the market, and a very hard sing. Indeed, the Roundabout’s delicious revival at the American Airlines crashes intermittently into most of those problems. But there’s nevertheless one small reason — about four-foot-eleven — it works anyway: Kristin Chenoweth. She is a comic genius in a role ideally suited to her gifts. The role is Lily Garland, née Mildred Plotka, a spoiled, insecure 1930s Hollywood star with a tough girl’s moxie and an almost erotic attachment to histrionics. She’s aboard the title luxury train, heading to New York, to make a triumphant return to Broadway, where the lead in a new Somerset Maugham play called Babette awaits her. Attempting to waylay her is Oscar Jaffee, the flamboyant producer who discovered her years earlier, and with whom she had a “blazing” affair. In the wake of three expensive flops in Chicago, and with creditors snapping at his cape, he has just one last chance at theatrical resurrection: Lily. Though she now despises him, he hopes to convince her to dump Babette in favor of his own new production, and to sign a contract to that effect before the train reaches Grand Central station. To that end he and his henchmen contrive to commandeer the drawing room next to the one in which Lily and her boytoy Bruce Granit are booked. Needless to say, there are connecting doors, as well as tap-dancing porters, would-be playwrights, a nut-job evangelist, and several spoofy flashbacks along the way.

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