The Visit, the big-budget John Kander and Fred Ebb musical which was scheduled for the current Broadway season — until star Angela Lansbury backed out for family reasons — may have its debut in Chicago at the nonprofit Goodman Theatre. Frank Galati, the director of The Visit, is an associate director at the Goodman.
The musical is being considered for a slot on the Goodman stage sometime in 2001, a spokesman at the William Morris agency, which reps Galati, told Playbill On-Line Nov. 29. A spokesperson for the show said that producers are also in discussion with other resident theatres. The creative team and producer Barry Brown have said in the past they are developing the show with an eye on actresses beyond Lansbury (though librettist Terrence McNally, composer Kander and lyricist Ebb wrote the show with Lansbury in mind). Lansbury is not expected to star in a possible regional production, said the show's spokesperson. A New York run remains the ultimate goal.
It is generally thought that new works with commercial hopes have a better chance to survive gossip and word of mouth in the bubble of non-profit subscription houses like the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA (where Rhythm Club was tested), the La Jolla Playhouse (where Thoroughly Modern Millie is trying out) or the Old Globe Theatre (where The Full Montybegan). Changes and fixes to those shows were made quietly during their runs.
Brown gave up on bringing the Friedrich Durrenmatt-inspired tuner to Broadway in the 2000-2001 season after an exhaustive and well publicized search for a lead actress to replace Lansbury. The multiple Tony-winner dropped out of the show July 20, to be with her husband, Peter Shaw, who had recently undergone heart surgery. The list of performers mentioned to replace Lansbury included Zoe Caldwell, Diana Rigg, Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Chita Rivera, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close and Shirley MacLaine. A representative for Caldwell told Playbill On-Line that producers spoke to her before the Broadway postponement and that she was not expected to be part of the project. *
The dark tuner, which was to start rehearsals Jan. 29, 2001, for an April 2001 opening at the Broadway Theatre, would have brought 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.
Frank Galati (Seussical, Ragtime) was slated to direct, and Ann Reinking was the show's choreographer. Galati began this season helming another high profile (and creatively bumpy) musical: Seussical. Some weeks ago, director Rob Marshall was invited to cast "another pair of eyes" on the production. Galati left the rehearsals and returned to Chicago. Galati won two Tony Awards for adapting and directing The Grapes of Wrath.
The Goodman Theatre recently christened a new two-theatre complex located on Dearborn Street between Randolph and Lake. The spot is the historic site of the Garrick and Woods theatres and the landmark Harris and Selwyn theatres. The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre is a tradition proscenium stage, slightly largely than the current mainstage, and equipped with a full fly tower and improved acoustics. The Owen Butler Goodman Theatre, meanwhile, has a timber-frame construction (with exposed fir beams) and can take any number of forms, including end stage, thrust, arena and runway.
The powerhouse Windy City theatre has had luck in transferring shows to New York recently. Its landmark production of Death of a Salesman won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Director of a Play (Robert Falls), Best Actor in a Play (Brian Dennehy) and Best Supporting Actress in a Play (Elizabeth Franz). The Goodman revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring Cherry Jones and Gabriel Byrne, transferred to Broadway this past spring. And Rebecca Gilman's comedy Spinning Into Butter, opened this past summer at Lincoln Center Theater.
The Visit is based on Swiss playwright Friedrich Durrenmatt's 1956 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 kill him.