The Visit, With Rivera, Hearn and Jacoby, Opens May 27

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27 May 2008

George Hearn in <I>The Visit</I>.
George Hearn in The Visit.
Photo by Scott Suchman
Composer John Kander and librettist Terrence McNally have been huddling with director Frank Galati and choreographer Ann Reinking in Arlington, VA, in recent weeks to shape the latest incarnation of The Visit, the new musical starring Chita Rivera, opening May 27 after previews from May 13.

Signature Theatre is producing the dark musical, which premiered in 2001 at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago (where Tony winners Galati and Reinking were attached). Lyricist Fred Ebb died in 2004, and Kander has been working on additional lyrics for the project.

Reprising her Goodman role, Rivera straps on the wooden leg of Claire Zachanassian, the vengeful lady at the center of the show, playing to June 22 at Signature's Max space.

Two-time Tony Award winner Rivera plays the dark, decrepit, determined character of Claire — the richest woman in the world who visits the town where she was wronged many years ago. (The man who done her wrong is played by two-time Tony winner George Hearn.)

With this new engagement, Rivera is returning to her own hometown, in a way: Arlington is a stone's throw from Washington, DC, where the Broadway legend was born and raised.



Tony winner McNally (Love! Valour! Compassion!, Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Master Class) penned the libretto, based on Maurice Valency's translation of the play (also called The Visit) by Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

Kander and Ebb are the Tony Award-winning songwriting team known for Cabaret, Chicago, Zorba, Curtains, The Happy Time, Kiss of the Spider Woman and more.

Jeremy Webb, Mary Ann Lamb, D.B. Bonds, Jerry Lanning, Karen Murphy and more join Rivera, Hearn (Sunset Boulevard, La Cage aux Folles) and Tony nominee Marc Jacoby (Ragtime, Show Boat) in The Visit this time around. Jacoby plays The Mayor, a role he created in Chicago.

The production is part of Signature's current Kander & Ebb festival, which also features mainstage productions of Kiss of the Spider Woman (now closed) and The Happy Time (through June 1 in the Ark). Other K&E-related events spike the festival.

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Rivera (The Rink, West Side Story, Kiss of the Spider Woman) is Claire Zachanassian, who was driven from her hometown in disgrace when she was 17, having been betrayed by her lover, Anton Schell (played by Hearn). "Several decades and seven husbands later, Zachanassian has become the richest woman in the world, yet her hometown has fallen on hard times," according to the Signature. "When Zachanassian returns with an offer to save the town, salvation comes with an outrageous price tag."

The Visit cast includes Bethe Austin as Annie, the mayor's wife; D.B. Bonds (Make Me a Song, The Phantom of the Opera) as young Anton; Matthew Deming as Louis Perch; Alan H. Green (Broadway's Play On!) as Benny; Jim Harms as Rudi; Michael Hayward-Jones (Me and My Girl) as The Priest; Howard Kaye (Miss Saigon) as Lenny; Doug Kreeger (Les Misérables) as Evgeny; Mary Ann Lamb (Curtains, Seussical, Fosse) as young Claire; Jerry Lanning (of the original Mame) as The Doctor; Ryan Lowe (Chicago) as Jacob Chicken; Karen Murphy (All Shook Up, 42nd Street) as Matilda, Anton's wife; Brian O'Brien (The Pirate Queen, Annie Get Your Gun) as Kurt; Cristen Paige as Ottilie; Kevin Reed as Karl; Hal Robinson (Cabaret, Nick & Nora) as The Police Chief; Jeremy Webb (The Glorious Ones) as The Schoolmaster, plus Leslie Becker, Robert Mintz, Brianne Moore, Christy Morton and Kimberly Sherbach.

The Visit features set design by Derek McLane, costume design by Susan Hilferty, lighting design by Howell Binkley and sound design by Matt Rowe. Orchestrations are by Michael Gibson. Musical supervision and musical direction is by David Loud. Musical conductor is Jon Kalbfleisch.

For more information about the Helen Hayes Award-winning Signature Theatre, visit www.signature-theatre.org.

Tickets to The Visit are $61-$76 and are on sale at Ticketmaster at (703) 573-SEAT (7328) or at the Signature site.

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The Visit played Chicago's Goodman Theatre in 2001-02. The creators have hoped for a New York City run, but that has yet to happen. This DC-area staging would seem to be the next step toward a wider life.

Director Galati is a Tony Award nominee for his direction of Ragtime, and a two-time 1990 Tony winner for his direction and script of The Grapes of Wrath.

Reinking, the Broadway actress, dancer, director and choreographer, won a Tony for choreographing the popular revival of Chicago, and was Tony-nommed for her direction of Fosse. She was also a Tony nominee as Best Featured Actress (Musical) and Best Actress (Musical) for Dancin' and Goodtime Charley.