The Visit, the big-budget John Kander and Fred Ebb musical which was scheduled for the current Broadway season — until star Angela Lansbury backed out for family reasons — will have its debut in Chicago at the nonprofit Goodman Theatre in fall 2001, according to sources in the theatre community.
The musical and the nonprofit were 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.
Frank Galati, the director of The Visit, is an associate director at the Tony Award-honored Goodman. A spokesman at the William Morris Agency, which reps Galati, told Playbill On-Line Feb. 6, that the show is now booked into the Chicago theatre. Sources close to the production told Playbill On-Line rehearsals are to begin around July 31, with the original creative team, including choreographer Ann Reinking. Dates for the production have not been officially announced, and producer Brown, who has nurtured the project, was not immediately available to comment. The Goodman Theatre has not announced its 2001-2002 season.
Librettist Terrence McNally, composer Kander and lyricist Ebb wrote the show (based on the play of the same name) with Angela Lansbury in mind. A new star has not been announced, but speculation has Chita Rivera connected to the project. Rivera starred in McNally, Kander and Ebb's The Kiss of the Spider Woman. A New York run remains the ultimate goal.
* It is generally thought that new works with commercial hopes have a better chance to survive gossip and word of mouth in the bubble of non profit subscription houses like the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA (where Rhythm Club was tested), the La Jolla Playhouse (where Thoroughly Modern Millie tried out) or the Old Globe Theatre (where The Full Montybegan). Changes and fixes to those shows were made quietly during their runs.
Brown gave up on bringing the Friedrich Durrenmatt-inspired 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.
The Goodman Theatre recently christened a new two-theatre complex located on Dearborn Street between Randolph and Lake. The spot is the historic site of the Garrick and Woods theatres and the landmark Harris and Selwyn theatres. The Albert Ivar Goodman Theatre (where The Visit would likely be) is a traditional proscenium stage, slightly largely than the current mainstage, and equipped with a full fly tower and improved acoustics. The Owen Butler Goodman Theatre, meanwhile, has a timber-frame construction (with exposed fir beams) and can take any number of forms, including end stage, thrust, arena and runway.
The powerhouse Windy City theatre has had luck in transferring shows to New York recently. Its landmark production of Death of a Salesman won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Play, Best Director of a Play (Robert Falls), Best Actor in a Play (Brian Dennehy) and Best Supporting Actress in a Play (Elizabeth Franz). The Goodman revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten, starring Cherry Jones and Gabriel Byrne, transferred to Broadway in spring 2000.
The Visit 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.