Aired on KSDS-FM on 3/24/17
RUN DATES: 3/9/17 – 4/30/17
VENUE: Cygnet Theatre
In times of stress and distress, what you need is a diversion, maybe even a change of scenery. How about a nice train ride?
Hop “On the 20th Century” at Cygnet Theatre, and prepare yourself for an evening of unalloyed bliss.
This trip is engineered by some of the best, with book and lyrics by the legendary Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Cy Coleman, directed by Sean Murray and featuring the finest musical/comic talent San Diego has to offer. You’re guaranteed to be transported – without ever leaving your seat.
The 20th Century was a famous, luxury train that ran between Chicago and New York. The cult musical, “On the 20th Century,” premiered on Broadway in 1978, and won five Tony Awards. It was revived to acclaim in 2015.
It’s a madcap romp, a screwball comedy based on a non-musical 1930s play and film, deliberate distractions from the Great Depression.
Oscar Jaffe, a formerly successful, downtrodden Broadway director, is dying for a comeback. His ticket to Hitsville, though he hasn’t even got a hot property to produce, is Lily Garland, born Mildred Plotka, whom he discovered, bedded, shaped and made crazy, before she escaped to Hollywood and became a superstar.
Oscar has weaseled a drawing room on The 20th Century, so he can woo Lily back into his arms, and more important, onto his stage. He’s desperate; he’ll do anything, and he tries everything. He’s sometimes stymied by a bevy of nutso passengers who make the trip a doozy, while the clever songs make the audience roar with laughter.
This may be Cygnet’s most impeccable, elaborate production. The physical comedy and comic timing are perfection. Murray’s direction, coupled with David Brannen’s fizzy choreography, make the 2½ hour trip fly.
The musical accompaniment is superb, the Art Deco set is stunning; the lighting, sound, costumes and projections make it all pop. Every performance is flat-out fabulous, including Murray’s scenery-chewing Oscar, Eileen Bowman’s stratospheric-singing bombshell, Lily, and Michael Cusimano as her hunky lover, with his side-splitting physicality.
Hurry and get on board. This is one musical, comical journey you don’t want to miss.
©2017 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews