The Visit, now playing on Broadway at the Lyceum theatre, is more than a thrilling new musical about love and revenge; it marks a collaborative reunion for its all-star creative team and leading lady. John Kander, Fred Ebb, Terrence McNally and Chita Rivera have, as a unit, worked on three separate new Broadway musicals together which, in addition to The Visit, include 1984's The Rink and 1993's Kiss of the Spider Woman. Rivera goes back even further with Kander and Ebb, having created the role of Velma Kelly in the 1975 original Broadway production of Chicago. Meanwhile, Visit choreographer Graciela Daniele has a long history with this group as well; she created the role of the Hunyak in the original production of Chicago alongside Chita Rivera and later choreographed The Rink.
Today, we're taking a look back at this incredible collaboration in the Vault by debuting our three latest cover-to-cover Playbills: Chicago, The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Since the Vault's launch, we have always included production-specific pages from opening night Playbills for all productions, but beginning with Peter Pan and Annie last year, we have begun adding some complete cover-to-cover Playbills into our archive. Every feature, every advertisement, every cast bio is available for you to read through from your computer screen. These provide a fascinating window into history, almost like a time machine back into the year these legendary shows opened on Broadway.
Here's some stand outs we found while looking through these Playbills:
- Did you know that Tony Kushner was once a model for the Gap? Take a look at page 9 of the Kiss of the Spider Woman Playbill for proof.
- Popular British TV show "Upstairs Downstairs" (a precursor to today's "Downton Abbey") was once announced to be receiving a Broadway musical adaptation! Read more in the "Theatregoers' Scrapbook" on page 50 of the Chicago Playbill.
- Want to learn how the original production of The Wiz went from posting a closing notice on opening night to becoming a huge hit on Broadway, all in a matter of weeks? Check out "How The Wiz Was Won" on page 8 of the Chicago Playbill.
- The Rink was also a reunion for Chita Rivera and co-star Liza Minnelli, who filled in for an injured Gwen Verdon for five weeks during the run of Chicago; Read all about the relationship between these two stage luminaries in "Two Ringers in The Rink," on page 8 of the Rink Playbill.
- Mary Louise Wilson may be currently appearing in the hit revival of On the Twentieth Century, but not all of her Broadway outings have been so successful. She writes about what it's like to be in the opposite of a hit on Broadway in "There's No Biz Like Show Biz," found on page 26 of the Rink Playbill.
- In 1993, the US Postal Service commemorated the artform of musical theatre with four stamps, each commemorating a different classic of the genre. Want to see if your favorite show was honored? Take a look at all four in color on page 23 of the Kiss of the Spider Woman Playbill, and then head to page 54 to read a little more about the collection.
- The Playbills to Chicago and The Rink both include Fashion supplements. Take a look if you'd like to read about what was on trend for fashionistas in 1975 and 1984.
Ready to dive in? Head into Playbill Vault for these fascinating cover-to-cover Playbills:
Kiss of the Spider Woman If you're enjoying these full cover-to-cover Playbills, let us know! Follow us on twitter (@PlaybillVault) and tell us what shows you'd like to see get the full cover-to-cover treatment. You might just get your wish!
(Logan Culwell is a musical theatre historian, Playbill's manager of research and curator of Playbill Vault. Please visit LoganCulwell.com.)