David Benedict on theatre

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The Independent Online
What do you do when you're handed a trunkload of songs and told to write a movie out of them? Pen the Oscar-winning screenplay of Singin' in the Rain, silly. That's if you're Betty Comden and Adolph Green. These twin giants of stage and screen arrived on Broadway in 1944 in spectacular fashion by writing and starring in On the Town. It was also the Broadway debut for their old pal Leonard Bernstein (the punchy, brassy score is sensational), and of director and choreographer Jerome Robbins.

Fast forward to 1978, and you find them teamed up with Cy Coleman, no slouch in the compositional department, what with Sweet Charity and City of Angels on his CV. On the Twentieth Century, based on the MacArthur/Hecht play and film Twentieth Century, was a similar talentfest. Glamorous Lily Garland, formerly Brooklyn shopgirl Mildred Plotka, has gone Hollywood, but maniacal Broadway director Oscar Jaffe, who made her a star, boards the eponymous train, plotting to drag her back to Broadway. A ludicrously athletic Kevin Kline (right) literally leaped to fame as matinee idol Bruce Granit, but who played the heroine? Madeline Kahn, she of the gleefully tawdry Dietrich impersonation in Blazing Saddles (playing Lily von Schtup) and the orgasmic high notes when consummating her passion for the monster in Young Frankenstein. Where has she been of late? Well, she ignited Wendy Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig (we got Maureen Lipman, which isn't quite the same), sang the lead in the concert revival of Anyone Can Whistle, was in Nora Ephron's critically lambasted Mixed Nuts, and has just completed filming Neil Simon's London Suite.

Hot on the heels of the intriguing Promises, Promises, On the Twentieth Century boasts Kathryn Evans, the sensational second lead from Mack and Mabel. Promising, to say the least.

Bridewell Theatre, London (0171-936 3456) from Wed

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