Thursday, March 19, 2015
“On the 20th Century” Opens to a 21st Century Audience
By Lyndsay Borko
After 37 years collecting dust, “On the 20th Century” once again makes its way to a stage on the Great White Way.
A starry cast including Kristin Chenoweth, Peter Gallagher, Andy Karl, and Mark Linn-Baker breathes new life into an aging musical. The comedy, previously staged on Broadway in 1978, is set in the 1930's aboard the luxury train “The 20th Century,” heading from Chicago to New York. During the sixteen-hour trip, a washed up Broadway producer tries to convince a famous actress to star in his non-existent musical about Mary Magdalene to save his career.
After three years in the making (and multiple setbacks), the revived show finally celebrated its official opening night at the American Airlines Theatre on 42nd Street. Previews began a day late due to lack of technical rehearsals on account of January 27th's blizzard, followed by a delayed official opening due to Peter Gallagher's recurring sinus infection.
Despite the official press night being pushed back from March 12 to March 15, the cast, crew, and audience celebrated the opening on the original date. This marked a return to Broadway for both of the lead actors, who had been largely confined to television screens in recent years. It appears to be a smash to both audiences and critics alike. Laura Osnes, the star of Broadway shows such as “Grease” and “Cinderella,” called it “Brilliance,” after attending the premiere with her husband, and The New York Times said, “There are so many reasons to celebrate this ‘On the Twentieth Century!’” The glowing reviews continue to pour in after last night's event, including the New York Post, which proclaimed, “'On the Twentieth Century' is on track to score big at Tony Awards time! Buy your tickets before the train leaves the station!”
Having seen the show on Friday evening following its unofficial opening, I agree with the critics. This show has a score that can't be beat, phenomenal actors, beautiful costumes, incredible set design, and pure wit and heart. The energy radiating from the audience could be felt from my seat in the last row of the theatre. They don't write musicals like this anymore. Don't be the person who misses the train by not getting to see this performance during its limited twenty-week engagement. Though, if audiences react the same way that the critics have, there may be a chance of an extension for the show. This is a train I never want to leave the station.