One of the worst kept secrets in the theatre has finally been officially confirmed. John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally's musicalization of Friedrich Duerrenmatt's The Visit will play Chicago's Goodman Theatre next season. Performances begin Sept. 21. Chita Rivera will star as the vengeful Claire Zachannassian, under Frank Galati's direction. Ann Reinking will choreograph.
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. Negotiations are currently underway with an actor for the part of Claire's former lover and current would-be victim.
"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. Since then, Reinking, Ebb and Galati have openly discussed the venture.
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.
Brown gave up on bringing the tuner to Broadway in the 2000-2001 season after an exhaustive and well-publicized search for a lead actress to replace Lansbury. The multiple Tony-winner dropped out of the show July 20, 2000, to be with her husband, Peter Shaw, who had recently undergone heart surgery. Fans and media — and, perhaps to some degree, the creative team itself — had a frustrated time dreaming of who might replace the popular Lansbury in the dark role. Among names bandied about by various parties: Zoe Caldwell, Meryl Streep, Diana Rigg, Judi Dench, Bernadette Peters, Rivera, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close and Shirley MacLaine.
In other Goodman news, Regina Taylor's Drowning Crow, scheduled to play the Goodman's smaller stage April 27-May 27, has been rescheduled for the bigger Albert Iver space next season. "As Drowing Crow has taken shape," said Goodman artistic director Robert Falls in a statement, "we realized that the larger stage and the greater technical resources of the Albert theatre would enable us to more fully realize the vision of Regina."
Crow is Taylor's new adaptation of The Seagull. The actress playwright has relocated the drama to the historic Gullah Islands off the coast of modern-day South Carolina. The family is now African-American and Konstantin is a performance artist.
Filling the spot vacated by Crow at the Owen will be the Chicago based Next Theatre's production of Among the Thugs by Tom Szentgyorgyi, running June 1-30 (opening June 11). Kate Buckley directs.
—By Robert Simonson