Actor John McMartin is currently in discussions to fill the role of Schill in the Goodman Theatre upcoming production of John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally's musicalization of Friedrich Duerrenmatt's The Visit. The show will play the Chicago theatre next fall. Performances begin Sept. 21. Frank Galati's directs. Ann Reinking will choreograph.
McMartin will star opposite Chita Rivera, who plays the vengeful and rich Claire Zachannassian. In Duerrenmatt's chilling morality tale, Claire returns to her small hometown and promises the population a huge sum of money if she can return with the body of her former lover — and still living — Schill, who jilted her in their youth.
McMartin was most recently seen on Broadway in High Society, earning a Tony nomination for his work as Melissa Errico's tipsy uncle. Other credits include the Harold Prince revival of Show Boat and the original Sweet Charity. He played the role of Schill in a 1973 APA-Phoenix revival directed by Harold Prince.
The Visit will play through Oct. 28 and officially open Oct. 1. Rehearsals begin in August. Galati told Playbill On-Line April 6 that Broadway is still the goal for the musical.
"The whole idea of [crossing] Duerrenmatt's play with a musical theatre mode is tremendously exciting," Galati told Playbill On-Line. "And actually, it's something that Duerrenmatt himself would be turned on by. He was really into detective fiction, he loves thrillers and he loved music hall, musicals and vaudeville." In an interview with Playbill On-Line last February, Reinking, talking of the part of Claire, observed, "Well, the character has a wooden leg. [Former star] Angela [Lansbury] came up with this wonderful idea. There's this number with her entourage. She said, `I wouldn't mind doing some version of a tango.' When she said that, my eyes sort of lit up. With Chita, I might try that. But if it doesn't work — it won't be in it. For me, there's obviously not a lot of choreography with this story. But that story has impressed me ever since I was 14. It was one of the first plays I saw at Seattle Rep."
The musical and the Goodman were first linked last fall, and in December 2000 producer Barry Brown confirmed to Playbill On-Line that he was exploring a tryout at the Windy City nonprofit, but nothing was in stone. Brown had announced the musical for the 2000-2001 season, but star Angela Lansbury backed out for family reasons. Librettist McNally, composer Kander and lyricist Ebb wrote the show with Lansbury in mind.
—By Robert Simonson