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On the Twentieth Century

New York, NY

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.

Poster art of the time inspired the forced perspective show curtain.

The train’s visual language mirrors the Streamline Moderne language and Henry Dreyfuss’s design for the 1938 20th Century train.

Rockwell Group also designed the furniture and props, including the elegant luggage.
Streamline Moderne and Art Deco languages convey the luxury and opulence of train travel.

Lavish furniture and décor shows how the passengers were pampered.

The term “red carpet treatment” originated with the real 20th Century locomotive, so we echoed that sentiment on stage.

“One of the things I was intrigued by was the notion of dynamic movement and opulence.”

David Rockwell
The use of embedded lighting gives depth to all of the surfaces.

The train interior had to allow the actors as much variety and freedom of movement as possible.

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.

“We immersed ourselves into the World of Art-Deco.”
David Rockwell
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