Broadway revival (2015)
On the Twentieth Century the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS
During the Roaring Twenties, egomaniacal impresario Oscar Jaffee is on the skids after four flops in a row. His latest show has abruptly closed in Chicago, leaving his angry cast and crew (to whom he owes back salary) "Stranded Again." On the lam, Oscar secretly sends orders to Owen O'Malley and Oliver Webb, his press agent and business manager, to meet him on the Twentieth Century Limited to New York and to get tickets for Drawing Room "A."
On the La Salle Station platform, the passengers praise the wonders of a journey "On the Twentieth Century". Owen and Oliver, bursting into Drawing Room "A," discover Congressman Grover Lockwood in a compromising position with his secretary Anita. Oliver easily persuades them to abandon Drawing Room "A." After making it on the departing train by climbing through a window, Oscar tells Owen and Oliver that he will soon regain his riches and success ("I Rise Again"). He reveals the reason they had to get Drawing Room "A": at the next stop, his former lover and protegee, Lily Garland (née Mildred Plotka), now a temperamental film star, will board the train and will be staying next door in Drawing Room 'B'. Oliver and Owen doubt that she will agree to be in Oscar's new play now that she's a movie star; Oscar insists that she will.
In a flashback, Oscar remembers the time he auditioned spoiled actress Imelda Thornton for the leading role in a play. Oscar discovered that the gawky young accompanist, Mildred Plotka, could sing "The Indian Maiden's Lament" much better than Imelda, even finishing with an operatic cadenza. Oscar immediately decided to cast Mildred in the leading role as "Veronique," a French street singer who wouldn't sleep with Otto von Bismarck and thus instigated the Franco-Prussian War. Mildred insisted that she did not want to be an actress, but Oscar convinced her to take the part, renaming her Lily Garland.
The conductor warns the passengers in Drawing Room "A" that a lunatic is on board the train. He then announces, "I Have Written a Play", titled Life on a Train. Oscar sends the conductor away. At Englewood, Illinois, all the passengers, especially Oscar, are thrilled that they and Lily Garland will be on the train "Together". Lily's costar and lover, Bruce Granit, fails to get off the train before it departs, and must come along for the ride. Owen and Oliver stop by Drawing Room "B" and beg Lily to return, revealing that Oscar is so poor, his theatre will be repossessed the next day. She replies, "Never". Bruce, suspicions aroused by Lily's passionate tirade, asks if she ever had a relationship with Oscar. She recites a long list of former lovers and insists that Oscar was never one of them. Still, in their separate drawing rooms, Oscar and Lily recall the relationship they once had ("Our Private World").
In the observation car, passengers complain that the religious lunatic has stuck "Repent for the time is at hand" stickers everywhere. The conductor assures them that they will catch the lunatic soon. This turns out to be Mrs. Letitia Primrose, who says it is her mission to warn sinners to "Repent." These stickers inspire Oscar with an idea for his new play: he will direct The Passion of Mary Magdalene, a role so good that Lily could not possibly refuse it. Bruce is equally confident that Lily will continue to act opposite him in Hollywood. In their respective drawing rooms, each prepares to meet with Lily again and vows that she will be his ("Mine"). As Oliver and Owen prepare a press release for the new play, Letitia remarks that she sponsors creative endeavors. She declares that she is the founder and president of Primrose Restoria Pills, and she does good works with her extra capital.
Lily enters Drawing Room "B" in a sexy negligee, and as Bruce and she begin playing, Oscar walks in. Oscar reveals his former relationship with Lily, and Bruce, outraged, walks out. Lily angrily recalls Oscar's jealousy and possessiveness in their former Svengali-like relationship. She is rich and successful without him; but Oscar retorts that she has lost her art by selling out to Hollywood ("I've Got it All"). Lily tells Oscar she plans to sign with successful producer Max Jacobs, Oscar's former assistant stage manager. Oscar furiously returns to Drawing Room "A", but he is mollified when Oliver and Owen introduce him to rich and religious Mrs. Primrose. Congressman Lockwood enters and announces, "I Have Written a Play", titled Life on the Hog Market Committee. They send him out and Oscar and Mrs. Primrose shake hands as Bruce and Lily sit down to dinner in the next car ("On The Twentieth Century (reprise)").
In an entr'acte, four porters philosophically declare that "Life Is Like a Train."
Owen, Oliver and Oscar congratulate themselves on obtaining Mrs. Primrose's check for $200,000 ("Five Zeros"). Lily's maid, Agnes, brings Oscar a message: Lily wants to see him immediately. Dr. Johnson detains him, however, declaring, "I Have Written a Play", titled Life in a Metropolitan Hospital. Oscar ignores her and enters Drawing Room 'B'. Lily tells Oscar that she has decided to give him money to help him with his financial situation. Oscar proudly reveals Mrs. Primrose's check and describes the Mary Magdalene play to Lily. Lily is transfixed and begins acting the part, ending with Oscar's arms around her waist. She jolts back to reality and insists on meeting Mrs. Primrose. Owen and Oliver escort Lily to Drawing Room "A", where they, Mrs. Primrose, and Oscar all attempt to persuade Lily to sign the contract. Bruce enters and tries to convince her not to sign it ("Sextet"). Lily resolves not to live in the past and refuses to sign, deciding to continue in movies with Bruce. Oscar suggests a compromise; if Lily does the play, Mrs. Primrose can pay for the movie too. Lily finds this very exciting and informally agrees. She insists on a few minutes alone before signing the contract.
In Cleveland, Ohio, some officers have boarded the train. They are looking for Mrs. Primrose, who escaped from the Benzinger Clinic mental institution that morning, and they have come to take her back. The news soon spreads throughout the train: "She's a Nut!" Oscar suddenly has no money again, and Lily, who has not yet signed the contract, angrily confronts him. Max Jacobs arrives with a new play, and Lily joyously greets him. She reads over the play, trying to envision herself as the decadent, glamorous title character, "Babette", but her thoughts keep straying to Mary Magdalene. Nevertheless, she finally decides that she will do Max's play.
Oscar meets Oliver and Owen in the observation car. He is carrying a gun and insists that he is going to end it all. He details "The Legacy" he is leaving them and returns to Drawing Room "A". Oliver and Owen are convinced he's just being dramatic, but then they hear gunshots. They find Mrs. Primrose holding the gun and Oscar mournfully staggering. She tried to take the gun away from him and it went off. Dr. Johnson examines Oscar and finds nothing wrong with him. Oscar says he will read Dr. Johnson's play if she pretends he really is wounded. Dr. Johnson agrees, and Owen tells Lily that Oscar is dying. Oscar begs her to sign the contract before he dies. She signs it, and they passionately sing to each other ("Lily, Oscar"). Max Jacobs rushes in, and Oscar, very much alive, gleefully shows him the contract. Lily tells him to check the signature. She has signed "Peter Rabbit"! She and Oscar scream ridiculous insults at each other until they start laughing and fall into each other's arms. They reconcile, kissing passionately, resulting in an outraged Max leaving the room. The ensemble comes out, dressed in white, as Owen and Oliver throw petals, followed by Lily in a wedding dress and Oscar in a white tuxedo. The newlyweds embrace and join the company in one final proclamation that "Life is like a train! (Finale)".
Read more: On the Twentieth Century the Musical Lyrics
Synopsis to On the Twentieth Century the Musical Plot