On the Twentieth Century at The Union Theatre (14 Dec 2010 – 15 Jan 2011)

This Christmas the Union Theatre is presenting the first London revival since the 1980 premiere of Cy Coleman’s multi-award winning classic, On The Twentieth Century which is music by Cy Coleman, book and lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, directed by Ryan McBryde, choreographed by Drew McOnie, musical direction by Oliver Jackson, design by Diego Pitarch, lighting by David Howe and produced by Charlie Payne.

Cast includes: Lulu Alexandra, Valda Aviks, Virge Gilchrist, Matthew Harrop, Kristopher Milnes, Howard Samuels,
Robbie Scotcher, Chris David Storer, Leejay Townsend and Rebecca Vere.

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.

On the Twentieth Century was the hit of the 1978 Broadway season, and this is its first London revival since the premiere in 1980. It features music by the great Cy Coleman (Sweet Charity) with book and lyrics by the remarkable team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green (On the Town). This Christmas On the Twentieth Century offers a riotous – and rather timely – theatrical treat like no other.

The Union Theatre is an off-West End fringe theatre situated in a former paper warehouse in the heart of Southwark. With its atmospheric under-the-arches interior, it is one of the more distinctive theatrical spaces in London. The Union has acquired a quite a reputation for staging high-quality musical revivals in its intimate studio space, and was nominated for the 2010 Peter Brook Empty Space awards for recognition of their pioneering body of work as a small theatre space with limited funding.  Recent successes include Bells are Ringing, an award-winning all-male Pirates of Penzance (WhatsOnStage Award for Best Off-West End Production 2010), which transferred to Wilton’s Music Hall; and A Man of No Importance.

Lulu Alexandra’s credits include Boogie Nights, iBroadway (UK tours); The Handsomest Room in Town and Dancing on Ice (ITV). Valda Aviks’ credits include Mary Poppins, Jerry Springer the Opera, The Witches of Eastwick, Beauty and the Beast, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats (West End); and Caroline or Change (National Theatre). Virge Gilchrist’s credits include Hamlet! The Musical (Edinburgh Fringe 2010); Stand and Deliver (New Diorama); and First Lady Suite (Union Theatre). Matthew Harrop’s credits include Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard (West End); and The Rocky Horror Show (ATG touring). Kristopher Milnes’ credits include Spring Awakening (RSC); Myths and Legends (Nabokov); Eveline’s Circle (Hampstead Theatre); The Full Monty, Les Miserables (West End); television and film includes Disney presents: Stick With Me Kid!, Eye of the Storm, The Treasure Seekers; The Muppet’s Christmas Carol . Howard Samuels’ credits include The Lady of the Tiger, Nutmeg and Ginger (Orange Tree Theatre); One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Nimax Theatres); Can’t Smile Without You, Tonight’s the Night, The Rocky Horror Show (West End and touring); Company (Oldham Coliseum); The Ugly Duckling (Watermill Newbury). Chris David Storer’s credits include Hustle (BBC); Perfect Pitch: The Lost Christmas (Trafalgar Studios); Torn (Arcola Theatre); and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Antic Disposition). Leejay Townsend’s credits include The Remains of the Day (Union Theatre) and Vavoom: Story of a Showgirl (Courtyard Theatre). Rebecca Vere’s credits include My Parents are Aliens (Granada); Cats, Bat Boy, Les Miserables (West End); Prayer for Owen Meany, South Pacific (National Theatre); and Hair (Old Vic Theatre).

Ryan McBryde’s recemt credits include the Edinburgh Fringe 2010 award-winning Hamlet! The Musical (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh); A Day at the Racists (Finborough Theatre, Broadway Theatre Barking), which prompted the Broadway Theatre to be nominated for a TMA/The Stage Award for the transfer; the German premieres of both The Full Monty and Spring Awakening musicals; Terry Johnson’s Hysteria, Hair – The Musical, Ira Levin’s Deathtrap and The Fox (Frankfurt English Theatre). Ryan was Resident Director on Billy Elliot (Victoria Palace), Bat Boy (West Yorkshire Playhouse/Shaftesbury Theatre) and was Associate Director on The Common Pursuit (Menier Chocolate Factory).

Choreographer Drew McOnie was one of the 14 final dancers on the primetime BBC series So You Think You Can Dance. In 2010, he reached the final stages of the prestigious Place Prize for choreography, with his commission Slaughter, winning the public vote. As a choreographer, credits include: Spring Awakening, The Full Monty (German premieres, English Theatre Frankfurt); Meet me at the Dinah (UK Tour); KES (Liverpool Playhouse/UK tour); Call Me Madam (Upstairs at the Gatehouse); Be Mine! (Cloud Dance Festival); The Old Man Of Lochnagar  (National Youth Ballet, mentored by Matthew Bourne, Sadlers Wells / Hackney Empire). As a performer, credits include: Slow Float (Joyce Theatre, NYC); Shoes, Shall We Dance, Adam Cooper (Sadler’s Wells); and A Chorus Line (Lowry Theatre, Manchester).

Musical Director Oliver Jackson graduated from the London College of Music and was recipient of the Westminster Prize.  Recent credits include Associate MD on Chicago (West End) and Assistant MD on The Human Comedy at The Young Vic. He was composer and musical supervisor for Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall for the Bristol Old Vic and Chichester Theatre, which won Best Regional Production in the What’sOnStage awards 2010.

Designer Diego Pitarch‘s design credits include Sunset Boulevard, Spend Spend Spend (Watermill Newbury/West End/National Tour); The Gates of Gold (Library Theatre Manchester); Flamenco Flamen’Ka, (West End), Martin Guerre, Donkey hoo-ha, The Snow Queen, Hot Mikado, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Odyssey, The Shed, The Gilded Lilies (Watermill Newbury); Jungle Book, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Madame Bovary, The Sleeping Beauty, A Long Time Ago and Return to the Forbidden Planet (Northampton Theatre Royal).

David Howe‘s lighting design credits include: Birdsong, Sweet Charity, Mrs Warren’s Profession, Rent, Private Lives, Christmas Carol, The Last Five Years and Tick Tick Boom, Pageant   Other theatre credits include The Norman Conquests (The Old Vic and Broadway), Maria Friedman Re-Arranged (Trafalgar Studios) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Haymarket Theatre), Forbidden Broadway (Menier Chocolate Factory and Albery Theatre).

Producer Charlie Payne is a graduate of the Old Vic New Voices 24 Hour Plays in 2009 and has worked professionally full-time for producing theatres since April 2007. Charlie is currently one of four producers for the Old Vic’s TimeWarner Ignite Project. Producing credits include: A Day at the Racists and I Was a Beautiful Day (Finborough Theatre) and assistant producing credits for Almeida Projects at the Almeida Theatre include All the little things we crushed by Joel Horwood, Or Nearest Offer by Tanya Ronder, The Door Never Closes by Rex Obano and The Red Helicopter by Robin French.

It opens on Tuesday 14 December and runs to Saturday 15 January at the Union Theatre, Southwark.

For more information, please visit: www.uniontheatre.biz