The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review

Twentieth Century

We're only real between curtains.---Lily Garland
Alex Baldwin & Anne Heche
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1932 screwball comedy has rolled into town, with Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche playing the egocentric down on his luck Broadway producer Oscar Jaffe and the blonde bombshell whom he transformed from a shop girl named Mildred Plotka into a star named Lily Garland. It's a no-brainer to figure out why Jaffee booked the suite adjoining Lily's on the New York bound Twentieth Century Limited. Just as obviously, his scheme to win Lily back as his lover and leading lady will be more hindered as helped by his devoted second bananas, Owen O'Malley (Dan Butler) and Ida Webb (Julie Halston), not to mention Matthew Clark, a whacky religious fanatic willing to bankroll his comeback project, a grand Passion Play starring Lily as Mary Magdalene.

John Lee Beatty, that master of luxurious stage interiors, has done the memory of the glamorous transcontinental train proud. Its sleek Art Deco cars actually slide and glide so that viewers have a real sense of watching a moving train, which is abetted by ACME Sound Partners. Unfortunately, the high speed look of Beatty's train is deceptive. This Twentieth Century huffs and puffs tediously.

Baldwin and Heche, who apparently had enough box office appeal to extend the show even before its official opening, fail to project the slick sizzle needed to bring Oscar and Lily back to vivid life. Baldwin manages the physical demands of the part despite his surprisingly expanded girth and an odd waddling gait, but not the over-the-top grandiosity the part calls for. Heche's delivers on the physical gesture and her anorexic-thin body looks gorgeous in William Ivey Long's as always stunning costumes. However, she is way too shrill so that her words are often hard to hear. Worse still, the chemistry between the two stars is notable only for its absence.

The second bananas come closer to recapturing the spirit of this depression era silliness. Halston, who has come to own any role calling for an Eve Arden/Audrey Meadows persona is at her acerbic best in the part originally written for a man. Tom Aldredge as the nutty religious millionaire actually succeeds 100% and Stephen DeRosa comes close in the double role of a bearded Passion player and Oscar's nemesis Max Jacobs. Speaking of that passion play, since Ken Ludwig is given credit for newly adapting Hecht and MacArthur's script, you might think that Mel Gibson's over-hyped movie about Jesus Christ prompted Ludwig to cleverly do some last minute tickling to emphasize the timeliness of this subplot. The truth of the matter is that Jaffe's idea for bringing religion to Broadway on a grand scale is merely a bit of playwriting imitating movie making. Ludwig's updating of the original is barely evident; on the contrary, like Walter Bobbie's direction, it seems to add to one's feeling of riding a clunky local train.

Nostalgia fans may enjoy the handsome staging and large cast as reminders of light-hearted old-time Broadway shows as well as some of the still crackling dialogue. Some examples of lines that still resonate include Oscar melodramatically firing Ida with "Out! Out! Out! You traitor! I close the iron door on you!" or Lily's wistful "We're only real between curtains"

Maybe the Roundabout would have been better served with a revival of the very popular musical version, On the Twentieth Century which ran on Broadway for 449 performances and won 5 Tonys. When I last saw this during the Berkshire 2001 summer season it was staged much more modestly but the songs and less well-known cast nevertheless delivered the pizzazz sadly missing from this more elegant and expensive production.

Review of On the Twentieth Century
The 1934 John Barrymore/Carole Lombard movie has become a video golden oldie. For a front row living room viewing, you can get it at our book store. 20th Century the video.

Twentieth Century
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, adapted for this production by Ken Ludwig
Directed by Walter Bobbie
Cast: Alec Baldwin (Oscar Jaffe), Anne Heche (Lily Garland), Tom Aldredge (Matthew Clark), Terry Beaver (Conductor), Patrick Boll (Detective/Ensemble), Dan Butler (Owen O'Malley), Stephen DeRosa (Beard/Max Jacobs), Julie Halston (Ida Webb), Robert M. Jiménez (Porter), Kellie Overbey (Anita Highland), Ryan Shively (George Smith), and Jonathan Walker (Dr. Grover Lockwood).
Sets: John Lee Beattie
Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lighting Design: Peter Kaczorowski
Sound Design: Acme Sound Partners
Hair and wig design: Paul Huntley
Running time: 2 hours, includes one 15 minute intermission.
Roundabout at American Airlines, 227 W. 42nd St. 212/719-1300.
2/27/04 to 6/06/04; opening 3/25/04.
Tue - Sat at 8pm; Wed, Sat, Sun at 2pm except Mar 30-Apr 9 evening performances are at 7pm.
Ticket price: $86.25 to $46.25.
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on March 31st press performance

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


valve suppliers,factory,valves corporation,company check Valve suppliers,china valveChina valve Manufacturer, ©Copyright 2004, Elyse Sommer, CurtainUp.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from