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Chita Rivera and Roger Rees Star in Kander and Ebb's "The Visit" at the Lyceum Theatre
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Chita Rivera and Roger Rees Star in Kander and Ebb's "The Visit" at the Lyceum Theatre

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Tom Kirdahy, Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Tom Smedes, Hugh Hayes
et al.
in association with Williamstown Theatre Festival

Chita Rivera and Roger Rees

The Visit
(The Visit Website)

Book by Terrence McNally
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
based on the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt

Jason Danieley, David Garrison, Mary Beth Peil, George Abud
Matthew Deming, Diana DiMarzio, Rick Holmes, Tom Nelis,
Chris Newcomer, Aaron Ramey, John Riddle, Elena Shaddow,
Timothy Shew, Michelle Veintimilla, Matt Dengler,
Ken Krugman, Emily Mechler

Directed by John Doyle
Choreography by Graciela Daniele
Music Director, Vocal and Dance Arrangements by David Loud
Orchestrations by Larry Hochman

At the
Lyceum Theatre
A Schubert Organization
149 West 45th Street

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Design: Japhy Weideman
Sound Design: Dan Moses Schreier
Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Makeup Design: J. Jared Janas
Musical Coordinator: John Monaco
Stage Manager: Thomas J. Gates
Production Stage Manager: Lori M. Doyle
Technical Supervisor: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Press Representative: O&M Co.
Casting: Calleri Casting
Advertising & Marketing: Serino/Coyne
Company Manager: Bruce Klinger
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 29, 2015

I vividly recall the 1992 Roundabout Theater Company production of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play, a tale of a woman scorned, who exacts cruel revenge, through orchestrated bribery and financial persecution. The current Kander and Ebb musical production of The Visit, first staged in Chicago in 2001, is neither a fully satisfying musical nor a fully satisfying play. The Lyceum stage (close to the former, Criterion Center Stage, site of the 1992 adaptation), with Scott Pask’s iron and wood, railroad-evoking set, covered in vines, seems too wide and too distant to feel the internalized angst of Claire Zachanassian (Chita Rivera). Claire, remarkably personified by the renowned and vibrant Ms. Rivera, had been seduced and abandoned in her hometown of Brachen, in central Europe, in her youth. Michelle Veintimilla affectingly plays the young Claire in dance and song. Claire’s seducer was Anton Schell (Roger Rees), now a dreary, struggling husband of Matilde (Mary Beth Peil), a study in pain and bitterness. The young Anton is played by a romantic John Riddle, also in dance and song. The businesses in Brachen have taken a drastic hit, financially, and it’s no wonder why. Claire, now widowed more than a handful of times, by marrying wealthy, old men, including an owner of oil wells, has purchased Brachen property and businesses, allowing them to deteriorate, like the town’s inhabitants. People are hungry for the luxuries they once knew, but they have little hope.

Little hope, that is, until Claire offers the town a billion marks to bring Brachen back to its heyday and each resident forward into a future of wealth. Her only pre-condition to the monetary gift is that they all agree to kill Anton Schell. Morality and laws are cited by the townspeople to justify their refusal of such an outrageous offer. Yet, all the while, Claire’s businesses lend the shoppers credit, to buy new shoes and fine clothing. Those new shoes and accessories are all solid, sunshine yellow, popping off the stage like pure gold, thanks to Japhy Weideman’s targeted lighting. Also in yellow are the gloves and shoes of Claire’s two loyal, male aides, both blind eunuchs. Their backstory as Anton’s paid witnesses, in his legal rejection of the then-pregnant Claire, later gave her a rationale for revenge. That quenched taste for revenge was only the catalyst for the ultimate revenge, long planned. A heavy coffin and black suitcases lie prominently onstage throughout most of the show. Claire is patient, seething, and conniving, as the townspeople become more and more desperate. Ms. Rivera is an imposing presence in long, white, fur finery and elegant, feathered hat, designed by Ann Hould-Ward. Her vocals are still powerful. With the help of Dan Moses Schreier’s excellent sound design, Ms. Rivera’s “Love and Love Alone” reverberates throughout the Lyceum. Less enthralling, but well projected, was Mr. Rees’ “I Know Claire”.

This new arrival at the end of a busy Broadway season should have been more gripping, especially with its deathly, foreboding plot. Perhaps it needs a smaller, intimate stage. Perhaps the music adds tunefulness to treachery. Perhaps John Doyle’s direction lacks riveting intensity, beyond Ms. Rivera’s glare. Perhaps the song and dance, “Eunuch’s Testimony”, sung in duo countertenor, with some yellow, “soft shoe” rhythms, is too surreal and effervescent. Perhaps Anton and his wife, the dour, jealous Matilde Schell, who watches her husband ingratiate himself to Claire, in the false hope of survival, are too boring. Perhaps Graciela Daniele’s choreography lacks energy in this grey, dim set, even with the popping yellow accessories. And, perhaps Ms. Daniele’s lovely duets for young Claire and young Anton, dancing with each other, as well as with their older, alter egos, made one wish for a streamlined show with more of this eloquent imagery. I’d love to see Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s original play, without the sung, musical score, re-produced somewhat, as it was in 1992, but adding Ms. Daniele’s youthful character dance to the Kander and Ebb melody. And, I’d love to see Chita Rivera again, soon, in the Broadway and cabaret galas, where she struts and wows.

Chita Rivera and the Cast
in a scene from Kander and Ebb's "The Visit."
Courtesy of Thom Kaine

Roger Rees, John Riddle,
Michelle Veintimilla, Chita Rivera
in a scene from Kander and Ebb's "The Visit."
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

John Riddle and Michelle Veintimilla
in a scene from Kander and Ebb's "The Visit."
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Chita Rivera and Michelle Veintimilla
in a scene from Kander and Ebb's "The Visit."
Courtesy of Thom Kaine

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at