The playwright, who has penned the book for the upcoming production Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, spoke about The Visit at a recent Broadway Chatterbox hosted by Seth Rudetsky. Said McNally, "I'm hoping the reviews for Chita's show are so extraordinary that there will be a demand for her to do The Visit. We had the bad luck of opening after 9/11. Very few people made the journey to Chicago to see it. And the show got the reputation of being a downer, and I find it morally uplifting and deeply moving.
"I thought if any show is going to be Chita's Gypsy — the show she's remembered for — it'd be this one. But the climate now is hard for serious musicals. I think people take Chita for granted. She's not that 'hot' name, but there's no one better. I honestly think [The Visit] will happen."
The Visit has had a luckless history. The musical adaptation of Friedrich Durrenmatt's biting satire of greed and revenge was once set for Broadway, with Angela Lansbury as its star. The musical was developed originally as a vehicle for Lansbury. But the actress pulled out owing to family responsibilities. A mad search for a new lead resulted in Rivera, but the Broadway plans were scotched and the show drifted into limbo.
In fall 2001, The Visit finally got its premiere, at the Goodman Theater, with Rivera and John McMartin in the leads. Reviews were respectable, though not the sort that would propel the show immediately to Broadway. More time passed. Further regional productions were considered. Then, in a surprise move, lead producer Barry Brown and company partnered with the nonprofit Public Theater on an Off-Broadway mounting. The show was to have bowed in early 2004 but was canceled when major investors withdrew from the project.
Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, the upcoming musical celebration of the life and art of Tony Award-winning Broadway actress Chita Rivera, will begin previews Nov. 23 at the Schoenfeld Theatre. The musical — featuring a book by McNally and direction by Graciela Daniele — will make its world premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre Sept. 10-Nov. 6 before arriving on Broadway, where it will officially open Dec. 11.