Musical (1978)

Musique: Cy Coleman
Paroles: Adolph Green • Betty Comden
Livret: Adolph Green • Betty Comden
Production à la création:

After four flops in a row, megalomaniac theatre impresario, Oscar Jaffee, and his hapless entourage are on the run. Desperately trying to resuscitate his flat-lining career he books a carriage on the Twentieth Century Limited, the world’s most famous express train, bound for New York. In the next carriage resides his former sweetheart turned Hollywood starlet Lily Garland. Now Oscar has just 16 hours to entice the egotistical Lily back on to the stage, as the leading lady in his next show. Oscar’s financial ruin hangs in the balance and a jealous lover is on the loose. Offered funding by religious fanatic Letitia Peabody Primrose, Jaffee’s dreams fall into a glorious, and by turns hilarious, balancing act of keeping everyone happy. Set against a backdrop of the great American Depression of the 1930s, what unfolds is a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale of the pitfalls of producing theatre when cash is tight and private money comes at an unavoidable cost.

Act I
Egomaniacal impresario Oscar Jaffee is on the skids after four flops in a row. His actors mournfully realize they've been "Stranded Again". Oscar orders Owen O'Malley and Oliver Webb, his press agent and business manager, to meet him on the Twentieth Century Limited to New York and to get tickets for Drawing Room 'A'.
On the La Salle Station platform the next day, the passengers praise the wonders of a journey "On the Twentieth Century". Owen and Oliver, bursting into Drawing Room 'A', discover Congressman Grover Lockwood in a compromising position with his secretary Anita. Oliver easily persuades them to abandon Drawing Room 'A'. Oscar tells Owen and Oliver that he will soon regain his riches and success ("I Rise Again"). He reveals the reason they had to get Drawing Room 'A': at the next stop, his former lover and protegee, Lily Garland (née Mildred Plotka), now a temperamental film star, will board the train and will be staying next door in Drawing Room 'B'. Oliver and Owen doubt that she will agree to be in Oscar's new play now that she's a movie star; Oscar insists that she will.
In a flashback, Oscar remembers the time he auditioned spoiled actress Imelda Thornton for the leading role in a play. Oscar discovered that the gawky young accompanist, Mildred Plotka, could sing "The Indian Maiden's Lament" much better than Imelda, even finishing with an operatic cadenza. Oscar immediately decided to cast Mildred in the leading role as "Veronique," a French street singer who wouldn't sleep with Otto von Bismarck and thus instigated the Franco-Prussian War. Mildred insisted that she did not want to be an actress, but Oscar convinced her to take the part, renaming her Lily Garland.
The conductor warns the passengers in Drawing Room 'A' that a lunatic is on board the train. He then announces "I Have Written a Play", titled Life on a Train. Oscar sends the conductor away. The train arrives at Englewood, Illinois and all the passengers, especially Oscar, are thrilled that they and Lily Garland will be on the train "Together". Lily's costar and lover, Bruce Granit, fails to get off the train before it departs, and must come along for the ride.
Owen and Oliver stop by Drawing Room "B" and beg Lily to return, revealing that Oscar is so poor, his theatre will be repossessed the next day. She replies, "Never". Bruce, suspicions aroused by Lily's passionate tirade, asks if she ever had a relationship with Oscar. She recites a long list of former lovers and insists that Oscar was never one of them. Still, in their separate drawing rooms, Oscar and Lily recall the relationship they once had ("Our Private World").
In the observation car, passengers complain that the religious lunatic has stuck "Repent for the time is at hand" stickers everywhere. The conductor assures them that they will catch the lunatic soon. This turns out to be Mrs. Letitia Primrose, who says it is her mission to warn sinners to "Repent." These stickers inspire Oscar with an idea for his new play: he will direct The Passion of Mary Magdalene, a role so good that Lily could not possibly refuse it. Bruce is equally confident that Lily will continue to act opposite him in Hollywood. In their respective drawing rooms, each prepares to meet with Lily again and vows that she will be his ("Mine"). As Oliver and Owen prepare a press release for the new play, Letitia remarks that she sponsors creative endeavors. She declares that she is the founder and president of Primrose Restoria Pills, and she does good works with her extra capital.
Lily enters Drawing Room "B" in a sexy negligee, and as Bruce and she begin playing, Oscar walks in. Oscar reveals his former relationship with Lily, and Bruce, outraged, walks out. Lily angrily recalls Oscar's jealousy and possessiveness in their former Svengali-like relationship. She is rich and successful without him; but Oscar retorts that she has lost her art by selling out to Hollywood ("I've Got it All"). Lily tells Oscar she plans to sign with successful producer Max Jacobs, Oscar's former assistant stage manager. Oscar furiously returns to Drawing Room "A", but he is mollified when Oliver and Owen introduce him to rich and religious Mrs. Primrose. Congressman Lockwood enters and announces, "I Have Written a Play", titled Life on the Hog Market Committee. They send him out and Oscar and Mrs. Primrose shake hands as Bruce and Lily sit down to dinner in the next car ("On The Twentieth Century" (reprise)).

Act II
In an entr'acte, four porters philosophically declare that "Life is Like a Train."
Owen, Oliver, and Oscar congratulate themselves on obtaining Mrs. Primrose's check with "Five Zeros" preceded by a two and a dollar sign. Lily's maid, Agnes, brings Oscar a message: Lily wants to see him immediately. Dr. Johnson detains him, however, declaring, "I Have Written a Play", titled Life in a Metropolitan Hospital. Oscar ignores her and enters Drawing Room 'B'. Lily tells Oscar that she has decided to give him money to help him with his financial situation. Oscar proudly reveals Mrs. Primrose's check and describes the Mary Magdelen play to Lily. Lily is transfixed and begins acting the part, ending with Oscars arms around her waist. She jolts back to reality and insists on meeting Mrs. Primrose. Owen and Oliver escort Lily to Drawing Room "A", where they, Mrs. Primrose, and Oscar all attempt to persuade Lily to sign the contract. Bruce enters and tries to convince her not to sign it ("Sextet"). Lily resolves not to live in the past and refuses to sign, deciding to continue in movies with Bruce. Oscar suggests a compromise; if Lily does the play, Mrs. Primrose can pay for the movie too. Lily finds this very exciting and informally agrees. She insists on a few minutes alone before signing the contract.
The train has stopped in Cleveland, Ohio, and some officers have boarded the train. They are looking for Mrs. Primrose, who escaped from the Benzinger Clinic mental institution that morning, and they have come to take her back. The news soon spreads throughout the train: "She's a Nut!" Oscar suddenly has no money again, and Lily, who has not yet signed the contract, angrily confronts him. Max Jacobs arrives with a new play, and Lily joyously greets him. She reads over the play, trying to envision herself as the decadent, glamorous title character, "Babette", but her thoughts keep straying to Mary Magdelen. Nevertheless, she finally decides that she will do Max's play.
Oscar meets Oliver and Owen in the observation car. He is carrying a gun and insists that he is going to end it all. He details "The Legacy" he is leaving them and returns to Drawing Room "A". Oliver and Owen are convinced he's just being dramatic, but then they hear gunshots. They find Mrs. Primrose holding the gun and Oscar mournfully staggering. She tried to take the gun away from him and it went off. Dr. Johnson examines Oscar and finds nothing wrong with him. Oscar says he will read Dr. Johnson's play if she pretends he really is wounded. Dr. Johnson agrees, and Owen tells Lily that Oscar is dying. Oscar begs her to sign the contract before he dies. She signs it, and they passionately sing to each other ("Lily, Oscar"). Max Jacobs rushes in, and Oscar, very much alive, gleefully shows him the contract. Lily tells him to check the signature. She has signed "Peter Rabbit"! She and Oscar scream ridiculous insults at each other until they start laughing and fall into each other's arms.

Comden and Green based the musical on three works: the 1934 Howard Hawks film Twentieth Century; the original 1932 play of the same name by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; and Hecht's and MacArthur's inspiration, Charles Bruce Millholland's unproduced play about his experiences working for theater producer David Belasco, Napoleon of Broadway.

Comden and Green based the musical on three works: the 1934 Howard Hawks film Twentieth Century; the original 1932 play of the same name by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; and Hecht's and MacArthur's inspiration, Charles Bruce Millholland's unproduced play about his experiences working for theater producer David Belasco, Napoleon of Broadway.

Cy Coleman, when asked to compose the score, initially refused. "I didn't want to do twenties pastiche – there was too much of that around," he recalled. "But when I realized the main characters had these larger-than-life personalities, I thought – ah, comic opera! Even the tikka-tikka-tikka patter of a locomotive train has the rhythm of comic opera." Coleman agreed to write the music for the show and produced an operetta-style score reminiscent of the works of Sigmund Romberg and Rudolf Friml. Coleman's music often evokes the movement of a train in its orchestration and rhythms. At times it echoes the chase music that used to accompany Mack Sennett's silent comedies, and traces of operatic Kurt Weill and romantic Jacques Brel can be heard as well.

Following a Boston tryout at the Colonial Theatre, the Broadway production, directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Larry Fuller, opened on February 19, 1978 at the St. James Theatre to mixed reviews. It ran for 11 previews and 449 performances. The opening night cast included John Cullum, Madeline Kahn, Imogene Coca, and Kevin Kline.
After only nine weeks, Kahn departed the show. The New York Times reported, on April 25, 1978, that Kahn had left the show the day before, and "she said she was withdrawing because of damage to her vocal cords." She was replaced by understudy Judy Kaye, who had been playing a small supporting role, and the critics were invited to return. According to the New York Times, "Judy Kaye replaced Madeline Kahn...and bang, boom, overnight she is a star." They praised her performance, and Kaye's theatrical career took off. She later starred in the US tour opposite Rock Hudson.
A London production, produced by Harold Fielding, and starring Keith Michell as Oscar Jaffe, Julia McKenzie as Lily Garland, Mark Wynter as Bruce Granit and Ann Beach as Mrs. Primrose, opened on March 19, 1980, at Her Majesty's Theatre, The Haymarket and ran for 165 performances. Dora Bryan had originally been cast as Mrs. Primrose, but was replaced by Beach a week before previews due to a difference of opinion with the American producers about her performance.
The show has never been revived on Broadway; however, as part of an Actors Fund benefit, a one-night-only staged concert was held on September 26, 2005 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The production starred Marin Mazzie as Lily, Douglas Sills as Oscar, Joanne Worley as Letitia Primrose and Christopher Sieber as Bruce, as well as appearances by Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Max Jacobs, Cheyenne Jackson as one of the "Life is Like a Train" porters, and Kathleen Turner as Imelda.
The first inner London revival was staged at the Union Theatre, Southwark, running December 14, 2010 to January 15, 2011. Howard Samuels plays Oscar Jaffee and Rebecca Vere is Lily Garland. Directed by Ryan McBryde, with choreography by Drew McOnie and design by Diego Pitarch.

Act I
• Stranded Again – Actors
• Saddle Up the Horse – Owen O'Malley, Oliver Webb
• On the Twentieth Century – Passengers
• I Rise Again – Oscar Jaffe, Owen, Oliver
• Veronique – Lily Garland, Singers
• I Have Written a Play – Conductor Flanagan
• Together – Passengers
• Never – Lily, Owen, Oliver
• Our Private World – Oscar, Lily
• Repent – Mrs. Primrose
• Mine – Oscar, Bruce Granit
• I've Got it All – Lily, Oscar
• On the Twentieth Century (reprise) – Company

Act II
• Entr'acte: Life is Like a Train – Porters
• Five Zeros – Oscar, Owen, Oliver, Mrs. Primrose
• Sextet – Owen, Oliver, Oscar, Mrs. Primrose, Bruce, Lily
• She's a Nut – Company
• Babbette – Lily, Singers
• The Legacy – Oscar
• Lily, Oscar – Oscar, Lily, Singers
• On the Twentieth Century (reprise) – Company

Aucun dossier informatif complémentaire concernant On the Twentieth Century

Aucun dossier informatif complémentaire concernant On the Twentieth Century

Version 1

On the Twentieth Century (1978-02-St. James Theatre-Broadway)

Type de série: Original
Théâtre: St. James Theatre (Broadway - Etats-Unis)
Durée : 1 an 3 semaines
Nombre : 11 previews - 449 représentations
Première Preview : 09 February 1978
Première: 19 February 1978
Dernière: 18 March 1979
Mise en scène : Harold Prince
Chorégraphie : Larry Fuller
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: George Coe (Owen O'Malley), Dean Dittman (Oliver Webb), Imogene Coca (Letitia Primrose), John Cullum (Oscar Jaffee), George Lee Andrews (Max Jacobs), Willi Burke (Imelda), Madeline Kahn (Mildred Plotka/Lily Garland), Kevin Kline (Bruce Granit), Judy Kaye (Agnes), Ken Hilliard (Priest)
Commentaires : Madeline Kahn left the show early in the run after having missed 10 performances in two months. She was replaced by her understudy, Judy Kaye. At the time, it was reported that the role was too vocally demanding for her to perform eight times a week, and that she had proposed having Judy Kaye play matinees.

Hal Prince stated in later interviews that she was having trouble commanding the energy to play physical comedy eight times a week, and his statements suggest that he and possibly the writers tried to persuade her to leave. At least a few critics, having attended critics' previews rather than opening night (when Prince says she was wonderful), did find her performance a bit lackluster.

Between the out-of-town opening and the Broadway opening, the role was made more vocally demanding. It may be that this was done at Kahn's suggestion. It does seem that after the Broadway opening, at some performances she sang lower notes in place of some of the high notes that had been added.

Version 2

On the Twentieth Century (1980-03-Her Majesty's Theatre-London)

Type de série: Original London
Théâtre: Her Majesty's Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée :
Nombre : 165 représentations
Première Preview : Inconnu
Première: 19 March 1980
Dernière: Inconnu
Mise en scène : Peter Coe
Chorégraphie : Larry Fuller
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Keith Michell (Oscar Jaffee), Julia McKenzie (Lily Garland),
Mark Wynter (Bruce Granit), Ann Beach (Letitia Primrose),
Jeff Wayne, Fred Evans, David Healy, Peter Johnston

Version 3

On the Twentieth Century (1996-08-Bridewell Theatre-London)

Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Bridewell Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée : 3 semaines
Nombre :
Première Preview : 16 August 1996
Première: 16 August 1996
Dernière: 07 September 1996
Mise en scène : Carol Metcalfe
Chorégraphie : Jenny Arnold
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Michael N. Harbour (Oscar Jaffee), Kathryn Evans (Lily Garland), Peter Hilton (Bruce Granit), Josephine Gordon (Letitia Primrose), Clive Paget, Martin Callaghan, Stephen Matthews, Louise Davidson
Commentaires : Although some critics felt the show really needed a lavish set to match its operetta style, most agreed this was a delightful revival of an extremely clever, witty musical.

Version 4

On the Twentieth Century (2010-12-Union Theatre-London)

Type de série: Revival
Théâtre: Union Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée : 1 mois
Nombre :
Première Preview : 14 December 2010
Première: 16 December 2010
Dernière: 15 January 2011
Mise en scène : Ryan McBryde
Chorégraphie : Drew McOnie
Producteur :
Star(s) :
Avec: Howard Samuels ( Oscar Jaffee), Rebecca Vere (Lily Garland), Robbie Scorcher (Bruce Granit ), Valda Aviks ( Letitia Primrose), Chris David Storer, Matt Harrop, Mensah Bediako, Kristopher Milnes, Lulu Alexandra, Virge Gilchrist, Leejay Townsend
Commentaires : Very much produced on a small scale, the quality of the music, lyrics and book managed to shine through, and generally the show was well received.

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