On the Twentieth Century

Variety - September 27, 1978


Judy Kaye assumed the role of Lily Garland, the Broadway and film star, in On the Twentieth Century early in the tuner's run, succeeding Madeline Kahn, who withdrew because of vocal problems. Experience has enhanced the talent she displayed when first seen, and she now emerges as a musical leading lady of considerable power.

Kaye has an excellent voice, almost of operatic quality, an acute sense of timing that extracts the maximum from a comic situation, and accomplished dramatic skills. She is also a very attractive young performer who moves like a trained dancer.

She excels in her duet with John Cullum in "Our Private World," easily the show's finest musical number. Her presence radiates to the other performers to the extent that "On the Twentieth Century" has evolved from a promising vehicle, uncertainly performed, to a fully realized, top-notch traditional musical that sparkles with polished performances.

Imogene Coca has mastered her material, lending a relaxed authority to her role as a likably nutty religioso, and Cullum is now fully at home as the egomaniacal Broadway producer. Kevin Kline as the star's romantic hanger-on continues to deliver the show's single best comedy performance. His physical humor, snappily executed, steals every scene in which he appears.

If the performance level remains as exciting as it is now, "On the Twentieth Century" should look forward to a long Broadway stay.

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