On the Twentieth Century, the rarely revived Cy Coleman-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical based on the classic Ben Hecht-Charles McArthur comedy Twentieth Century, will be performed in a staged concert version as a benefit for The Actors' Fund of America at the New Amsterdam Theater on Monday, September 26 at 7:30 pm. Seth Rudetsky, who conceived and music-directed the previous Actors' Fund Benefit concerts of Chess, Dreamgirls, Funny Girl, and Hair, will return as musical director. An all-star cast will be named at a later date.
The original production of On the Twentieth Century opened on Broadway in 1978, starring John Cullum as producer Oscar Jaffe, Madeline Kahn as starlet Lily Garland, Imogene Coca as religious fanatic Letitia Primrose, and Kevin Kline as Garland's lover, Bruce Granit. The original cast also included playwright-to-be Craig Lucas. The show made a star out of understudy Judy Kaye when she replaced Kahn two months after the show opened. During the run, future Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole replaced Kaye in her original role of Agnes, and Betty Comden herself played Letitia Primrose for a stint.
Cullum and Kline won Tony Awards for their work, as did Coleman, Comden and Green (who won for both Best Score and Best Book of a Musical), and set designer Robin Wagner. The show ran nearly 450 performances before closing in March 1979. In 2003, L.A.'s Reprise! series staged the musical with Carolee Carmello, Bob Gunton, and Mimi Hines in the leads. Coincidentally, Boston's Overture Concert series -- which benefits local youth arts programs -- has scheduled its own performances of On the Twentieth Century for September 23-25, with Alice Ripley and Todd Alan Johnson set to play Garland and Jaffe.
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