Goodspeed Opera House is investigating the possibility of a national tour of its embraced revival of On the Twentieth Century, the Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Cy Coleman musical comedy currently playing at Goodspeed's East Haddam, CT., space.
The revival of the 1978 tuner -- about show folk wooing or being wooed for projects and/or romance while on board the sleek, New York-bound 20th Century Limited train in the 1930s -- recently won awards from the Connecticut Critics Circle for Outstanding Production of a Musical, Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Mark Jacoby) and Outstanding Choreography (Peggy Hickey). It continues to July 3 starring Jacoby and Donna English.
Details are still being worked out, but fall 2000 is the target date, according to a Goodspeed spokesperson. Goodspeed, which nurtures new musicals and revives classic tuners, has not been in the business of sending out national tours, although Goodspeed productions have transferred regionally (like By Jeeves to the Geffen Playhouse and the Kennedy Center) or to New York (as with the National Actors Theatre pickup of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes).
Depending on the availability of artists, the current cast would be the company to tour. The James Noone set could easily be expanded for a tour, said a spokesperson.
* Jacoby and English play showbiz lovers and sparring partners Oscar and Lily for Goodspeed's On the Twentieth Century, which opened April 30 after April 9-29 previews.
The 1978 Betty Comden-Adolph Green-Cy Coleman musical retells the story of an egomaniacal -- and broke -- stage producer, Oscar Jaffee, who woos his onetime protégé-lover, Lily Garland, away from Hollywood and back to Broadway. The setting of the musical, based on Hecht and MacArthur's Twentieth Century, is the famed New York Central Railroad liner, racing from Chicago to New York.
The original Broadway staging from director Harold Prince featured a glistening art deco scenic design by Robin Wagner. Musical theater buffs love the score for its daffy, consistent comic opera quality and such songs as "She's a Nut," "Five Zeros," "Veronique," "Our Private World," "Sign" and "Life Is Like a Train."
Goodspeed, the nonprofit that begat Annie, regularly produces revivals of rare or lesser-known shows, luring Broadway talent like Jacoby, who created the role of Father in Ragtime.
English appeared in Goodspeed's 1993 staging of On the Town, in George Abbott's Broadway on Broadway, and in Forbidden Broadway Strikes Back! and Ruthless Off-Broadway.
Ted Pappas directs On the Twentieth Century; Michael O'Flaherty is musical director.
Designers are Noone (sets), David Woolard (costumes) and David F. Segal (lighting). Orchestrations for the faux-Offenbach score by Coleman are by Christopher Jahnke.
The cast of 21 includes Tony Lawson (Beauty and the Beast tour) as Lily's movie star lover, Bruce Granit, Michael McCormick (Kiss of the Spider Woman) and Peter Van Wagner as Oscar's doormat colleagues Owen and Oliver and Jan Neuberger (Miss Watson of Big) as Letitia, the rich religious zealot who promises to produce Oscar's extravagant new production about the life of Mary Magadelene.
Marc Kudisch, originally announced as Bruce, dropped out due to a family emergency.
A rare full-out musical comedy for director Prince in a period punctuated by his more serious-minded Sweeney Todd, A Little Night Music, Evita and Follies, On the Twentieth Century is a cult favorite but is not widely known, despite its national tour starring Rock Hudson and its Tony Award-winning book and score.
The original Broadway production is remembered for Wagner's clever, glittery scenic design (a small electric train ran across the stage against a night backdrop to create a cinematic long shot) and its breakout, Tony Award-winning performance by a young Kevin Kline, as a rival of producer Oscar Jaffee (played by Tony-winner John Cullum).
Madeline Kahn played the original Lily but left the show early in the run to be replaced by then-newcomer Judy Kaye in one of the great starmaking roles in recent history. Kaye's professional life blossomed after that, leading to a Tony Award for her portrayal of Carlotta in The Phantom of the Opera. Kaye, coincidentally, shared the Ragtime stage with Jacoby, playing Emma Goldman.
Upcoming at Goodspeed are: No, No, Nanette (July 9-Oct. 2) and the new musical, Glimmerglass (Oct. 8-Dec. 19).
On the Twentieth Century tickets are $20-$43. For Goodspeed information, call (860) 873-8668.
-- By Kenneth Jones