Kristin Chenoweth Returning to Broadway in 'On the Twentieth Century'

By Jon Sobel | May 14, 2014 10:51 AM EDT

After Kristin Chenoweth's recent, not-so-successful sitcom-star and recording artist incarnations, the Tony-winner is getting back to bread and butter with the first Broadway revival of the 1978 musical On the Twentieth Century. It will be the first Broadway role since 2010's Promises, Promises for Chenoweth, who first shot to stardom in Wicked.

Chenoweth will star opposite Peter Gallagher in the Roundabout Theater Company production to be directed by Scott Ellis and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, opening in February 2015.

John Cullum won a Tony Award in the original 1978 production for the role of down-and-out impresario Oscar Jaffee. Kevin Kline also took one home for Best Featured Actor in the rollicking show about antics on a Chicago-to-New York luxury train in the Roaring Twenties.

The production also elevated Judy Kaye's career when original star Madeline Kahn left the show after nine weeks and understudy Kaye, who would later win a Tony of her own in Phantom of the Opera, took over. Betty Comden, Adolph Green and Cy Coleman's score and Comden and Green's book also won Tonys.

While Kristin Chenoweth hasn't appeared on Broadway in a few years, she has managed to stay in the spotlight in other ways, despite suffering an injury on the set of The Good Wife in July 2012. Her sitcom GCB ran for only one season and her 2011 country-pop album Some Lessons Learned didn't make any waves, but a recurring role on TV's Glee netted her two Emmy nominations, and I can tell you from personal experience there was no lack of energy in her surprise appearance singing a duet in concert with Mika on his "Popular Song," a rewritten version of "Popular" from Wicked (which Chenoweth herself will always be identified with).

This writer fondly remembers On the Twentieth Century as the first Broadway show he ever went to by himself, and as his first exposure to the music of Cy Coleman, who then became one of his all-time favorite stage composers. But even more than the music itself, what this writer remembers best is non-Tony-winning cast member Imogene Coca's performance as holy roller Letitia Primrose. It was the only time I ever got to see Coca on stage, and it will be a hard act to follow.

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