The new musical, The Visit, will now open directly on Broadway in 2001 rather than play a December Boston tryout, giving Lansbury time with her family, according the show's general manager's office.
Although a New York Post story suggested the move was due to the loss of some financing, associate general manager Susan Bell told Playbill On line the ditching in Boston was made last week to allow Lansbury as much time as possible to be with her husband, Peter Shaw, who recently underwent a cardiac operation.
"She wanted to make sure he was totally recovered," said Bell. Moving the first rehearsal to Jan. 29, a change of about 12 weeks, will give Lansbury the chance to be with her family and make sure she doesn't have to worry about Shaw's condition before she starts working on the new role.
The new John Kander-Fred Ebb-Terrence McNally musical was to have run at Boston's Colonial Theatre, beginning previews Dec. 16 for a Dec. 28 opening and a stay through Jan. 14. The first preview at the Broadway Theatre in New York City was slated for Feb. 24, 2001, but may now begin around March 17. The official opening, now floating, will be in mid-to-late April.
* The news is bad for Boston theatregoers, but they don't know it yet: A spokesperson for presenter Broadway in Boston told Playbill On-Line July 10 that The Visit is still scheduled and will appear in Boston and no change has been announced in the 2000-2001 season there.
Indeed, the pre-Broadway Little Women musical, which the New York producers said would not appear at Boston's Wilbur Theatre in October, but in spring 2001, is still on for October, according to a Broadway in Boston spokesperson.
A July 7 Post report indicated that The Visit had lost a large chunk of its financing, but Bell said that was "old news" and that the financing is sound. The Post said that producers would save $1 million by scratching the Boston stop.
McNally (Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!) is penning the Visit book and Kander and Ebb (Cabaret, Chicago) are the songwriters.
Frank Galati is the show's director. Ann Reinking (Fosse, Chicago) is choreographer, David Loud is musical director, Michael Gibson is orchestrator, Santo Loquasto is designing sets and costumes, Jonathan Deans is sound designer and Brian MacDevitt is lighting designer.
Philip Bosco, currently in Broadway's Copenhagen, will star opposite Lansbury, who plays a jillionaire who returns to the town where she was jilted and offers the depressed denizens wealth if they will kill her ex (Bosco).
The Visit marks 75-year-old Tony Award-winner Lansbury's return to Broadway after more than 15 years (when she performed in a brief revival of Mame in the 1980s). She is beloved for her Broadway turns in Mame (Best Actress Musical Tony, 1966), Gypsy (Best Actress Musical Tony, 1975) and Sweeney Todd (Best Actress Musical Tony, 1979) and also starred in Jerry Herman's Dear World (Best Actress Musical Tony, 1969) and Stephen Sondheim's cult musical, Anyone Can Whistle (1964). She is known for film roles ("The Harvey Girls," "The Manchurian Candidate," "Gaslight") but earned superstardom as author-sleuth Jessica Fletcher in TV's "Murder She Wrote."
The new musical is drawn from the 1956 play by Swiss writer Friedrich Durrenmatt, who wrote a dark comedy of revenge in which a former prostitute, now the richest woman in the world, pays a macabre visit to her hometown.
The lead roles were originally played in New York by Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. A recent revival at the Roundabout Theatre Company featured Jane Alexander and Harris Yulin.
-- By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson