Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fun “On The 20th Century"

I know I’m coming to this party late, but recently I took myself down to Old Town and saw the Betty Comden, Adolph Green (Book and Lyrics) and Cy Colman (Music) “On The 20th Century”. What fun!

Steve Gunderson, Sean Murray and Melissa Fernandes
One year after my late husband and I moved to San Diego we found ourselves on (if memory servers) ‘The Sky Chief’ that took us from Los Angeles to Chicago.  A train change to the Boston & Oriel headed to Boston took us closer to friends and family we left behind.

We were flushed on our way to Boston and ate in the dining car every evening, changed into our comfy clothes downstairs in a huge room and spent days in the observation car. I loved it and I think that was the beginning of my love affair with trains.  

Years later while in Australia friends and I took the train from Perth to Sydney where again, we slept on the train, stopped off  (sometimes in the middle of the night) just to visit out of the way (Kilgoorlie) places along the Nullarbor Plain that we wouldn’t normally see.

I’m ready to across this country by train once more. So my natural inclination to hop aboard “The 20th Century” and let it take me wherever comes with my past history and love of trains.  I was not at all disappointed.

My fantasy is to travel on the Orient Express, but that seems out of the question. The next best is to look in on the luxury train (yup fictional 20th Century) traveling from Chicago to New York with a group of mostly eccentric characters.

Sean Murray and Eileen Bowman
Not in any particular order they include the bible thumping Letitia Primrose (Melinda Gilb), a high profile theatre producer, Oscar Jaffe (Sean Murray) who is trying to climb back to the top of his game and Hollywood star, Lily Garland (Eileen Bowman) his one time lover.

She’s had it with Jaffe and if fate woud have it, she never wants to see him again. She and he were an item at one time and now she has a new squeeze Bruce (Michael Cusimano) whose macho moves are a riot. He has a slapstick shtick right out of an Abbot and Costello movie with doors slamming into him that had me laughing out loud.

Sean Murray, Melinda Gilb, Melissa Fernandes and Steve Gunderson
Jaffe’s two sidekicks are Olive Webb (Melissa Fernandes) and Owen O’Malley (Steve Gunderson). When they are not bumbling or bumping into each other they are sharing a flask of whatever, in frustration over what to do about their boss.

Characters come and go with plans to reunite the couple. The goal is to get Lily and Jaffe back together again in some sort of a win-win situation as plots thicken and then fizzle. Jaffe is broke and needs Lily more than the other way around.

Strong support in performances come from the large ensemble including Brian Bayville, Trevor Cruse, Samantha Wynn Greenstone, Luke H. Jacobs, Amy Perkins, Drew Bradford, Debora Wanger and Morgan Carberry.

The one thing that remains constant is the amount of talent assembled on the small Cygnet stage under the deft direction of Sean Murray who still has the chops to bring the house down and the melodramatic were with all to keep us entertained as the come from behind loser to the take charge producer.

As his partner in crime and no wallflower, Eileen Bowman’s Lily takes a backseat to no one. She’s funny, gifted with a voice that’s second to none and she’s beautiful ta boot. She’s handful for Jaffe as every plot and plan he tries to seduce her just about ends in disaster for him. But please, don’t feel sorry for him.

Eileen Bowman, Sean Murray and cast
There is much more to this train-wreck of a story that makes “On The 20th Century” a trip worth taking. Sean Fanning’s set design of the luxurious Oriental Express with all the accouterment is to die for. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

The glitter, the drawing rooms, the narrow hallways and the huge drop curtain that gives us a picture of the outside of the train that comes down with the production numbers fills the entire stage. When the curtain rises, the cast can be seen on the inside looking out the windows and when the story resumes a cut-a way takes us to the inside of the train. It's all very well done.

Between Chris Rynne’s lighting, music director Terry O’Donnell and his band, Blake McCarty’s projections and Dylan Nielsen’s sound design this luxury liner is one eye -popping beauty. Add Jeanne Reith’s perfect period costumes, David Brannen’s choreography and a cast of all stars and you have one big celebration.

All Aboard. Ya hear now!

See you at the theatre.


Dates: Through April 30th
Organization: Cygnet Theatre
Phone: 619.337.1525
Production Type: Comedy
Where: 4040 Twiggs St. San Diego, CA 9210
Ticket Prices: Start at $31.00
Web: cygnettheatre.com
Venue: Theatre in Old Town

Photo: Ken Jacques

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