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Davis Shakespeare Takes A Musical Ride ‘On The Twentieth Century’

Zoart Photography / Courtesy

Sharon Rietkerk, Kyle Stoner, Ian Hopps, and Robin Fisher in "On the Twentieth Century" at the Davis Shakespeare Festival.

Zoart Photography / Courtesy

The Davis Shakespeare Festival also does musicals, and currently they’re staging “On the Twentieth Century,” a comedy that picked up a Tony Award for its glittering score in the 1970s.

“The Twentieth Century” was a luxurious train that carried the rich and famous between Chicago and New York in the 1930s. In this story, the passengers include a celebrated Broadway producer, flat broke after four flops.

He’s on the train because he knows a movie actress — who happens to be his ex-girlfriend and one-time protege — will be a passenger. He’s determined to rekindle their romance, and convince her to star in his Broadway comeback. But when these one-time lovebirds meet, her response is icy.

Lily: Never, never is much too quick. Never, he makes me much too sick. Let him save his own hateful hide, let him know he’s so hateful, I’d rather die…

However, every musical requires a love story, so expect some plot development as the train hurtles along.

As chance would have it, another passenger on the train is a fabulously wealthy businesswoman, and the Broadway producer invites her to finance his comeback. To his great relief, the wealthy lady writes a check on the spot, and the producer and his sidekicks drool over the six digit figure.

Oscar: “One, two, three, four, five… five zeroes. Preceded by a two. Preceded by a dollar sign, is two, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh… wonderful for words!”

This show — which surprisingly has never been done by the Music Circus — is part showbiz fairytale, part screwball comedy and part whacky sex farce, replete with slamming doors and wild coincidences.

The cast is large, and the singing is good. The leads are veteran professionals with a lot of musical comedy experience. The set, representing a cluster of passenger cars, is ingenious. And the Tony-winning score — a mix of 1930s sass and lilting operetta love songs — is a delightful bonus.

This is easily the most ambitious musical that Davis Shakespeare has staged to date, and they bring it off with good-natured humor and swaggering style.

The Davis Shakespeare Festival production of “On The Twentieth Century” continues through August 5 at the Veterans Memorial Theatre in Davis.

 theatre review

Jeff Hudson

Contributing Arts Reporter and Theatre Critic

Jeff Hudson has been contributing arts-related stories to Capital Public Radio since 1995, with an emphasis on theater and classical music. He attends over 100 performances annually, ranging from modern musicals to medieval masses.   Read Full Bio 

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