Shirley MacLaine has been sent the script and score of the new John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical, The Visit, and Glenn Close, who also had the script in her hands, has passed on the project.
The scripts were sent out to the actresses at the same time, a spokesperson told Playbill On-Line. When Angela Lansbury dropped out of the show July 20, due to family reasons, speculation about casting exploded, giving producer Barry Brown the sort of unwanted but not altogether harmful buzz he couldn't buy.
"I've heard every name from Cher to Betty Buckley," said Visit press rep Shirley Herz, on the subject of the wild, wishful, speculative casting of Klara Zacchanassian, the multimillionaire who returns to the depressed town where she was once rejected by a lover. Various names conjured by fans, columnists and others have included Diana Rigg, Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters and Chita Rivera.
The focus is still on Broadway for March previews and an April opening, said Herz. She said she has not heard of rumored plans for a London staging with Rigg or Dench. It's not uncommon for producers to invite more than one performer to look at a property for casting.
MacLaine left Broadway shortly after stepping in for an ailing Carol Haney in The Pajama Game. She played Gladys briefly in the Broadway musical (singing and dancing "Hernando's Hideaway" and "Steam Heat") before being whisked off to Hollywood, where a huge film career ("The Trouble With Harry," "Can-Can," "Terms of Endearment," "The Turning Point") followed. She's also starred in TV specials and performed her one woman concert show. *
Lansbury withdrew from The Visit to be with her husband, Peter Shaw, it was announced July 20. Shaw recently underwent heart surgery.
The dark tuner, which was to start rehearsals Jan. 29, 2001, for an April 2001 opening at the Broadway Theatre, would have brought Tony Award winner 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.
Philip Bosco is still attached as co-star in the musical. Frank Galati (Seussical, Ragtime) will direct, Ann Reinking is choreographer.
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.
-- By Kenneth Jones