The Visit, Starring Chita Rivera, Ends at Williamstown; Creators Hopeful for Future Life

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17 Aug 2014

Roger Rees and Chita Rivera in rehearsal
Roger Rees and Chita Rivera in rehearsal
Paul Fox

The new staging of the Kander and Ebb musical The Visit, starring two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera, ends its engagement Aug. 17 at the Williamstown Theatre Festival under the direction of Tony Award winner John Doyle.

Doyle (Sweeney Todd, Company) was enlisted to bring a fresh approach to the musical, which now debuts in a streamlined, 95-minute version. The production officially opened Aug. 2 after performances that began July 31.

Read the reviews here.

Based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1956 play, The Visit has music by John Kander, lyrics by the late Fred Ebb and a book by Tony Award winner Terrence McNally. Tony nominee Graciela Daniele (Ragtime, The Rink, Drood) choreographs. 

The production marks the third collaboration for Kander and Ebb, McNally and Rivera. The artists previously worked together on The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman, both of which led Rivera to Tony Award wins for her performances.

Rivera originated the role of Claire Zachanassian when The Visit had its debut in September 2001 at Chicago's Goodman Theatre and later repeated her work at the Signature Theatre in 2008. Despite setbacks throughout the show's out-of-town development, the creative team and key producers remain hopeful that The Visit will have a New York life. 

"We've been dying for New York audiences to have it," Tony-winning book writer McNally told Playbill.com in 2011. "I think it's riper than ever to be heard." Kander added, "This piece has been a very gratifying experience. When we got it to the point that it was at, at the Signature, I think we all felt proud and satisfied. The fact that it was not coming to New York seemed strange and sad for a lot of reasons."

In recent years Williamstown developed the new musicals Far From Heaven and The Bridges of Madison County, both of which set New York debuts within a year of their premieres there. No announcement of a New York transfer for The Visit has been made.

"We can't wait to get together with the creative team and plan our next Visit...," producer Tom Kirdahy told Playbill.com in an Aug. 14 statement.

According to Williamstown, "Rivera embodies Claire Zachanassian, the oft-widowed richest woman in the world, in The Visit. When Claire returns to the hardship-stricken town of her birth, the locals pray that her wealth will bring them a new lease on life, but the carefully plotted renewal she offers carries a dreadful price. Sardonic and morally complex, The Visit asks: What can your heart afford?"

The cast also includes Tony Award winner Roger Rees (Nicholas Nickelby, Peter and the Starcatcher), John Bambery (June Moon), Jason Danieley (Curtains, Next to Normal), Matthew Deming, Diana DiMarzio (Sweeney Todd), Melanie Field (Evita), David Garrison (Titanic), Rick Holmes (Spamalot), Judy Kuhn (Passion, Fun Home), Jude McCormick, Tom Nelis (Passion), Chris Newcomer (Chicago), Aaron Ramey (Young Frankenstein, Curtains), Timothy Shew (Evita, Les Misérables) and Michelle Veintimilla.

A veteran Broadway design team has been assembled, including Tony-winning scenic designer Scott Pask, Tony-winning costume designer Ann Hould-Ward, Tony-winning orchestrator Larry Hochman and Tony Honoree for Excellence Paul Huntley (hair and wig design). They are joined by Tony nominee Japhy Weideman (lighting design), Tony nominee Dan Moses Schreier (sound design), Angelina Avallone (make up design) and veteran musical director/supervisor David Loud. Libby Unsworth is stage manager.

Visit WTFestival.org.

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Chita Rivera and the cast of The Visit
Photo by T. Charles Erickson