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Généralités: Histoire, thèmes et particularités

Résumé

After four flops in a row, megalomaniac theatre impresario, Oscar Jaffee, and his hapless entourage are on the run. Desperately trying to resuscitate his flat-lining career he books a carriage on the Twentieth Century Limited, the world’s most famous express train, bound for New York. In the next carriage resides his former sweetheart turned Hollywood starlet Lily Garland. Now Oscar has just 16 hours to entice the egotistical Lily back on to the stage, as the leading lady in his next show. Oscar’s financial ruin hangs in the balance and a jealous lover is on the loose. Offered funding by religious fanatic Letitia Peabody Primrose, Jaffee’s dreams fall into a glorious, and by turns hilarious, balancing act of keeping everyone happy. Set against a backdrop of the great American Depression of the 1930s, what unfolds is a tongue-in-cheek fairy tale of the pitfalls of producing theatre when cash is tight and private money comes at an unavoidable cost.

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Historique du musical

Inspiration

Comden and Green based the musical on three works: the 1934 Howard Hawks film Twentieth Century; the original 1932 play of the same name by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; and Hecht's and MacArthur's inspiration, Charles Bruce Millholland's unproduced play about his experiences working for theater producer David Belasco, Napoleon of Broadway.

Génèse du musical

Comden and Green based the musical on three works: the 1934 Howard Hawks film Twentieth Century; the original 1932 play of the same name by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur; and Hecht's and MacArthur's inspiration, Charles Bruce Millholland's unproduced play about his experiences working for theater producer David Belasco, Napoleon of Broadway.

Cy Coleman, when asked to compose the score, initially refused. "I didn't want to do twenties pastiche – there was too much of that around," he recalled. "But when I realized the main characters had these larger-than-life personalities, I thought – ah, comic opera! Even the tikka-tikka-tikka patter of a locomotive train has the rhythm of comic opera." Coleman agreed to write the music for the show and produced an operetta-style score reminiscent of the works of Sigmund Romberg and Rudolf Friml. Coleman's music often evokes the movement of a train in its orchestration and rhythms. At times it echoes the chase music that used to accompany Mack Sennett's silent comedies, and traces of operatic Kurt Weill and romantic Jacques Brel can be heard as well.

Following a Boston tryout at the Colonial Theatre, the Broadway production, directed by Hal Prince and choreographed by Larry Fuller, opened on February 19, 1978 at the St. James Theatre to mixed reviews. It ran for 11 previews and 449 performances. The opening night cast included John Cullum, Madeline Kahn, Imogene Coca, and Kevin Kline.
After only nine weeks, Kahn departed the show. The New York Times reported, on April 25, 1978, that Kahn had left the show the day before, and "she said she was withdrawing because of damage to her vocal cords." She was replaced by understudy Judy Kaye, who had been playing a small supporting role, and the critics were invited to return. According to the New York Times, "Judy Kaye replaced Madeline Kahn...and bang, boom, overnight she is a star." They praised her performance, and Kaye's theatrical career took off. She later starred in the US tour opposite Rock Hudson.
A London production, produced by Harold Fielding, and starring Keith Michell as Oscar Jaffe, Julia McKenzie as Lily Garland, Mark Wynter as Bruce Granit and Ann Beach as Mrs. Primrose, opened on March 19, 1980, at Her Majesty's Theatre, The Haymarket and ran for 165 performances. Dora Bryan had originally been cast as Mrs. Primrose, but was replaced by Beach a week before previews due to a difference of opinion with the American producers about her performance.
The show has never been revived on Broadway; however, as part of an Actors Fund benefit, a one-night-only staged concert was held on September 26, 2005 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The production starred Marin Mazzie as Lily, Douglas Sills as Oscar, Joanne Worley as Letitia Primrose and Christopher Sieber as Bruce, as well as appearances by Jesse Tyler Ferguson as Max Jacobs, Cheyenne Jackson as one of the "Life is Like a Train" porters, and Kathleen Turner as Imelda.
The first inner London revival was staged at the Union Theatre, Southwark, running December 14, 2010 to January 15, 2011. Howard Samuels plays Oscar Jaffee and Rebecca Vere is Lily Garland. Directed by Ryan McBryde, with choreography by Drew McOnie and design by Diego Pitarch.

 

Détails

Liste des chansons

Act I
• Stranded Again – Actors
• Saddle Up the Horse – Owen O'Malley, Oliver Webb
• On the Twentieth Century – Passengers
• I Rise Again – Oscar Jaffe, Owen, Oliver
• Veronique – Lily Garland, Singers
• I Have Written a Play – Conductor Flanagan
• Together – Passengers
• Never – Lily, Owen, Oliver
• Our Private World – Oscar, Lily
• Repent – Mrs. Primrose
• Mine – Oscar, Bruce Granit
• I've Got it All – Lily, Oscar
• On the Twentieth Century (reprise) – Company

Act II
• Entr'acte: Life is Like a Train – Porters
• Five Zeros – Oscar, Owen, Oliver, Mrs. Primrose
• Sextet – Owen, Oliver, Oscar, Mrs. Primrose, Bruce, Lily
• She's a Nut – Company
• Babbette – Lily, Singers
• The Legacy – Oscar
• Lily, Oscar – Oscar, Lily, Singers
• On the Twentieth Century (reprise) – Company

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