The New York Post reported Sept. 20 that if the new musical, The Visit, debuts in London, it won't star Diana Rigg.
Rigg's agent, Lionel Larner, told The Post the actress has declined the role in the new John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally tuner about a filthy rich woman who seeks revenge on an ex-lover.
The show was written for Angela Lansbury, but the actress pulled out of the planned Broadway 2001 staging to focus her energy on her husband, who is recovering from surgery. Producer Barry Brown then put out various feelers and offers to other actresses -— Glenn Close, Shirley MacLaine -— and looked toward a London premiere.
Spokesperson Shirley Herz said other options are being explored for the show, and as of Sept. 20, Brown had not shelved the project, although, as previously reported, a Broadway staging of the show was off for the current season.
Frank Galati was set to direct, with Ann Reinking choreographing. The musical 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. Observers say Lansbury was the perfect choice for the $8 million project and would have assured a healthy initial box office for the show. She is legendary in the theatre community for her Broadway musical roles (and multiple Tony Award wins for Mame, Dear World, Gypsy and Sweeney Todd) and she also has a huge television audience from her years in "Murder, She Wrote." In London, Rigg would have brought her own English following to the staging, which likely would have had a life on Broadway after the West End opening (following a path Kander and Ebb's Kiss of the Spider Woman took).
Lyricist Fred Ebb told Michael Riedel of The Post: "I personally would like to see Chita [Rivera] or Donna Murphy do it, but because of the amount of money it takes to put on these shows, the feeling is that we need a name from the movies or television."
-- By Kenneth Jones