The screwball antics of On the Twentieth Century, a comedy about a vain theater director (Peter Gallagher) and his former protégé (Kristin Chenoweth), take place all aboard the 20th Century Limited, a 1938 passenger train that whisked travelers between Chicago and New York. For director Scott Ellis’s Broadway revival of the classic, David Rockwell designed an elaborate show curtain and movable train carriages that convey speed and opulence.
“This is the most elaborate show drop we’ve done. It sets the mood for the show.”
Poster art of the time inspired the forced perspective show curtain. The train’s visual language mirrors Henry Dreyfuss’s design for the 1938 20th Century locomotive.
Not only can the train rotate and track up- and down-stage, it can also move transversely across the stage. It rotates 180° to reveal the inside of the cars.
The musical includes 10 versions of the train of all different sizes: One clocks in at 33 feet long and 13,000 pounds!