One of the most anticipated musicals of the 2000-2001 season, The Visit, will not have Angela Lansbury as its anchor star, it was announced late July 20.
Lansbury has withdrawn from the John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally project due to her concerns about her husband’s health, according to a production announcement. Producer Barry Brown will investigate alternatives and plans to move ahead with the project, according to a statement.
In a letter to Brown, Lansbury wrote that the decision to pull out and be with her husband of 51 years, Peter Shaw, who recently had heart surgery, has left her feeling “absolutely shattered.” She wrote, “The kind of commitment required of an artist carrying a multimillion dollar production has to be 100 percent, and in fairness to you, I realize I simply couldn’t manage being available to you and the company, and fulfill my desire and need to care for Peter. I wouldn’t have had this happen for the world, if I could have avoided it.”
The dark tuner, which was to start rehearsals Jan. 29, 2001, for an April 2001 opening at the Broadway Theatre, would have brought Tony Award-winner Lansbury (Sweeney Todd, Mame, Dear World) back to musical theatre after an absence of about 15 years, since the mid-1980s when she appeared in a revival of Mame.
The December 2000-January 2001 Boston tryout of The Visit was cancelled earlier this month due to Lansbury’s wish to make certain her husband had recovered from his recent heart surgery. The Visit was said to have been a project developed for Lansbury. Philip Bosco was cast opposite her. Frank Galati is signed as director, Ann Reinking as choreographer.
Lansbury’s letter to Brown called the script and score “a wonderful project,” adding, “To have come this far with you for naught seems so sad and unfair. The infinite joy of being with you and Frank, John, Fred, Terrence and Ann, hammering out our ideas and feelings about the play, will be forever a memory of my time in the theatre to cherish.”
The musical is based on Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt’s dark fable about the richest woman on Earth who returns to the depressed town where she was scorned by a man. She offers the townspeople riches if they will destroy the man.