PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 3-9: At Last, Chita Rivera Will Pay a Visit to Broadway and the First Wives Set Up a Clubhouse in Chicago

News   PLAYBILL.COM'S THEATRE WEEK IN REVIEW, Jan. 3-9: At Last, Chita Rivera Will Pay a Visit to Broadway and the First Wives Set Up a Clubhouse in Chicago
 
There was news this week from musicals that have been kicking around for quite some time.

Chita Rivera in <i>The Visit</i>
Chita Rivera in The Visit Photo by Paul Fox

The John Kander and Fred Ebb musical The Visit has seen as many lives as the proverbial feline without ever having landed on all fours in Manhattan. Now, it seems, it finally will, beginning performances March 26 at the Lyceum.

The Visit New York will see will be a streamlined, one-act incarnation of the show Kander and Ebb first came up with and premiered in Chicago more than a decade ago. It will be directed by John Doyle, who was enlisted to bring a fresh approach to the musical. He debuted it in a 95-minute version last summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.

The only thing most of the earlier stagings of The Visit have had in common was star Chita Rivera, who originated the role of Claire Zachanassian, the zillionaire who returns to the hometown and old boyfriend that once treated her so badly to exact a pitiless revenge. She is still with the show. He latest co-star is Roger Rees, who will play the rotter beau in question, Anton Schell.

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Producers announced Jan. 7 the full cast for the Chicago premiere of the new Broadway-bound musical First Wives Club, which begins Feb. 17 at Broadway at the Windy City's Oriental Theatre.

Sean Cullen, Mike McGowan and Gregg Edelman will go head-to-head with previously announced Faith Prince as Brenda, Carmen Cusack as Annie and Christine Sherrill as Elise, playing first husbands Morty, Bill and Aaron, respectively.

With a book by Linda Bloodworth Thomason, of “Designing Women” fame, and direction by Simon Phillips, First Wives Club features new original songs and classic hits by the Motown songwriting legends Lamont Dozier, Brian Holland and Eddie Holland, including "Reach Out…I'll Be There," "Stop! In the Name of Love" and "I Can't Help Myself.”

Bradley Cooper
Bradley Cooper Photo by Joan Marcus

The musical is, of course, based on the hit 1996 Paramount feature film and the original best-selling novel by Olivia Goldsmith. It was first heard of back in 2008, when a version written by Rupert Holmes and directed by Francesca Zambello was premiered at the Old Globe in San Diego. Karen Ziemba, Adriane Lenox and Barbara Walsh starred. It was supposed to hit Broadway the following year, but did not make it to the altar.

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The smash Bradley Cooper revival of The Elephant Man, now on Broadway, may travel to London.

On "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon" Jan. 5, Cooper said he hopes to take the record-breaking revival across the sea. "We're going to do it 'til Feb. 22, and then I think we're going to take it to London — bring it back home for the summer for 12 weeks. We're working on it now, but I think it's going to work out," Cooper said. "We're going to take the whole company, too. Everybody."

Deadline.com reports that The Elephant Man will likely begin a 12-week London engagement in April. ***

They’ll be no London transfer for The Last Ship, the new musical by and starring Sting, inspired by the songwriter's own childhood. It will play its final performance on Broadway Jan. 24, it was announced.

Directed by Joe Mantello, The Last Ship opened Oct. 26 to mixed reviews. The show struggled to stay afloat at the box office. In an extraordinary gesture, Sting entered the cast, taking over one of the show's central roles to boost ticket sales. Sales did rise a bit, but not enough to sustain the show. Sting’s last scheduled performance, Jan. 24, will now be the show's closing date.

Back to the dull old life of a rock legend, I guess.

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Josh Radnor and Gretchen Mol
Josh Radnor and Gretchen Mol Photo by Joan Marcus

Broadway life is coming to an end, too, for Ayad Akhtar’s volatile Pulitzer Prize-winning drama Disgraced, which stars Hari Dhillon, Karen Pittman, Gretchen Mol and Josh Radnor. It will end its run March 1, producers announced Jan. 4.

Disgraced premiered in January 2012 at Chicago’s American Theatre Company before playing a fall run at at the Claire Tow Theater as part of Lincoln Center Theater’s new works initiative, LCT3. Reviews were good, but the show never gained much attention from Broadway ticket buyers. The production will have played 149 performances and 27 previews when it closes. A national tour is planned to begin in November 2015.

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Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-running musical Cats, which is currently playing a West End revival, will return to Broadway, according to The Guardian. And the composer is hopeful that Nicole Scherzinger, a former Pussycat Doll (no joke) will star.

The musical is currently playing an extended West End revival that reunites members of the show's original creative team.

If Lloyd Webber wants Cats’ old home, the Winter Garden, he’ll have to take it up with himself. The songwriter’s own new musical version of The School of Rock will be moving into that theatre in late 2015.

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