The Goodman Theatre in Chicago unveils the John Kander-Fred Ebb Terrence McNally musical, The Visit, Sept. 21 in a first preview toward an Oct. 1 opening.
The company of The Visit began rehearsals Aug. 14 at the Goodman, the lauded and Tony Award-honored resident theatre company in the Windy City. Chita Rivera and John McMartin lead the troupe as ex-lovers who tango through a bitter reunion that turns deadly. Rivera is a veteran of the salty vamps of composer Kander and incisive lyrics of Ebb. She starred on Broadway in their Chicago, The Rink (for which she won the Tony Award) and Kiss of the Spider Woman (for which she won Tony No. 2). McMartin appeared in the original Broadway productions of Sweet Charity, Follies and High Society. He also played Captain Andy in the Hal Prince revival of Show Boat.
Frank Galati (Ragtime) directs and Ann Reinking (Fosse) choreographs the tale of a depressed town and its famous former resident — Claire Zachanassian, the richest woman in the world. Performances at the Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre continue to Nov. 3.
Claire was driven from her hometown in disgrace when she was 17, betrayed by her lover, Anton Schell (McMartin). Many years (and seven husbands) later, she returns to her now-impoverished stomping grounds and offers to save the town. The price? Nothing less than the life of Schell. The musical is drawn from the 1956 play of the same name by Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt. The play's original title was Der Besuch der alten Dame, and was produced in London and New York as The Visit starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne.
The musical cast includes Guy Adkins (Karl Schell), McKinley Carter (Annie Dummermut), Mark Jacoby (Mayor Peter Dummermut), Cristen Paige (Otillie Schell), Ami Silvestri (Matilde nee Blumhard), Steven Sutcliffe (Schoolmaster Kuhn), with Scott Calcagno, Tina Cannon, Jim Corti, Mark Crayton, Joseph Dellger, Roberta Duchak, John W. Eskola, James Harms, Rob Hatzenbeller, Brian Herriott, Rosalyn Rahn Keirns, Leisa Mather, Matt Orlando, Adam Pelty, Greg Walter, Jonathan Weir, Bernie Yvon and Raymond Zrinsky. Designers are Derke McLane (set), Susan Hilferty (costumes), Brian MacDevitt (lighting), Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen (sound). David Loud is musical director.
Tickets range $40-$55. The Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn Street. For further ticket information, call (312) 443 3800.
The musical was developed originally by producer Barry Brown as a vehicle for Angela Lansbury and was announced for a Broadway run that would begin in early 2001. Lansbury pulled out owing to family responsibilities.
Galati told Playbill On-Line April 6 that Broadway is still the goal for the musical. The nonprofit Goodman is a testing ground for the show.
"The whole idea of [crossing] Dürrenmatt's play with a musical theatre mode is tremendously exciting," Galati told Playbill On Line. "And actually, it's something that Dürrenmatt 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 in February 2001, 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."
McNally, Kander and Ebb previously collaborated on Kiss of the Spider Woman and The Rink.
— By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson