Kristin Chenoweth can do no wrong. The four-foot-eleven, 90-pound diva is quite possibly in the role of her life as Hollywood starlet Lily Garland in On the Twentieth Century. She could very well earn her second Tony award for this performance, and for good reason. With comedic prowess, glamor, and pipes from heaven, Chenoweth is throwing down the gauntlet night after night.
After seeing the The King and I, I was almost positive the stunning and ever graceful Kelli O’Hara was heading straight for her first Tony award. In fact, I am still rooting for her. O’Hara, always the bridesmaid but never the bride, earned her sixth nomination for her portrayal as the imperious Anna Leonowens. But after watching On the Twentieth Century this week, I am no longer so sure she has this in the bag.
In this revival of the 1970s Broadway hit, Chenoweth plays a frumpy-pianist-turned-Hollywood-glamouress aboard a train bound for New York City. Unbeknownst to her, the failing Broadway producer who helped launch her career, played by the fabulous Peter Gallagher, is also aboard the train, plotting to get her into his new play and save his career. Madness ensues when Lily’s love interest, played by the hunky Andy Karl of Rocky fame, attempts to block her re-entrance into live theater. The whole show is a campy effervescent treat, complete with a crazy old lady and handsome tap-dancing porters.
Of course, even with spectacular scenery, a pleasant (but mostly forgettable) score, bubbly dance sequences and fun banter-y dialog, the main draw with On the Twentieth Century is Chenoweth. When Ross and I learned Chenoweth took a few shows off to recover from an illness, we contemplated switching our tickets to another date. That’s how much this show depends on her. Without someone with the unique combination of comedic genius and operatic voice, there would be no reason to revive this show. Thankfully for us, that someone is Chenoweth.