Généralités: Histoire, thèmes et particularités

Résumé

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.

Synopsis complet

 

Historique du musical

Inspiration

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.

Génèse du musical

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.

 

Détails

Liste des chansons

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

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Versions du musical

Versions majeures de On the Twentieth Century

Version 1

On the Twentieth Century (1978-02-St. James Theatre-Broadway) (Original)
Durée : 1 an 3 semaines
Nombre : 11 previews - 449 représentations
Première Preview : jeudi 09 février 1978
Première : dimanche 19 février 1978
Dernière : dimanche 18 mars 1979
Mise en scène : Harold Prince
Chorégraphie : Larry Fuller
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.
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Version 2

On the Twentieth Century (1980-03-Her Majesty's Theatre-London) (Original London)
Durée :
Nombre : 165 représentations
Première Preview : Inconnu
Première : mercredi 19 mars 1980
Dernière : Inconnu
Mise en scène : Peter Coe
Chorégraphie : Larry Fuller
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
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Version 3

On the Twentieth Century (1996-08-Bridewell Theatre-London) (Revival)
Durée : 3 semaines
Nombre :
Première Preview : vendredi 16 août 1996
Première : vendredi 16 août 1996
Dernière : samedi 07 septembre 1996
Mise en scène : Carol Metcalfe
Chorégraphie : Jenny Arnold
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.
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Version 4

On the Twentieth Century (2010-12-Union Theatre-London) (Revival)
Durée : 1 mois
Nombre :
Première Preview : mardi 14 décembre 2010
Première : jeudi 16 décembre 2010
Dernière : samedi 15 janvier 2011
Mise en scène : Ryan McBryde
Chorégraphie : Drew McOnie
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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