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The Visit
TheVisit.JPG
Logo
Music John Kander
Lyrics Fred Ebb
Book Terrence McNally
Basis Friedrich Dürrenmatt's play
The Visit
Productions 2001 Chicago
2008 Washington DC

The Visit is a musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and music by John Kander.

Based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt's 1956 satirical play about greed and revenge "Der Besuch der alten Dame," it focuses on one of the world's wealthiest women, Claire Zachanassian, who returns to her financially depressed hometown and offers its residents a new lease on life in exchange for the murder of Anton Schell, the man who scorned her years ago.

Contents

Background and production history

The musical adaptation was originally developed as a vehicle for Angela Lansbury and was scheduled for a Broadway opening that would begin in early 2001; but Lansbury withdrew due to the illness and subsequent death of her husband.

Chicago, 2001

Chita Rivera was signed as her replacement and the musical, directed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Ann Reinking, was staged with Rivera and John McMartin by the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, opening on October 1, 2001.[1] Galati said that because of the September 11, 2001 attacks the show did not move to Broadway: "It was generally a success, but we couldn't get anyone from New York or California to see it. People weren't flying." In that climate, he says, "the whole idea of moving a very dark parable about human greed, the dark side of human nature," was difficult. Reinking said: "By the time you really could travel and people felt safe again, our run was up."[2][3]

Regional theatre productions were considered as an alternative, while McNally rewrote the book. Then, in late 2003, The Public Theater announced it was mounting an off-Broadway production with Rivera and Frank Langella early the following year, but that too was cancelled when financing fell through.[4]

Signature Theatre, 2008

The Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia production of The Visit, began previews on May 13, 2008, officially opened on May 27 and ran through June 22. With direction by Frank Galati and choreography by Ann Reinking, Rivera was once again in the lead, with co-stars George Hearn and Mark Jacoby.[5][6] Prior to this production, a closed reading was held on February 19, 2008, with, among others, Jayne Houdyshell, Florence Lacey, and Jason Danieley, joining Rivera, Hearn and Mark Jacoby.[7]

Plot

In the small town of Brachen, Switzerland, the townspeople are poor. They are told that Claire Zachanassian, a former resident and now the world's richest women (by virtue of many fortunate marriages), will pay a visit. The townspeople see Claire as their last hope ("Out of the Darkness"). Claire, who has an artificial leg, arrives in a puff of train steam, carried by Jacob Chicken and Louis Perch, (freed from jail by Claire). She is escorted by her entourage: the falsetto-singing eunuchs Lenny and Benny, her butler Rudi and her latest much-younger husband Evgeny. ("At Last", "I Walk Away"). Anton, the town's shopkeeper and Claire's former lover still has feelings for her, and thinks that they might renew their romance ("I Know Claire"). Although Claire and Anton reminisce about their youthful affair, and the Young Anton and Young Claire dreamily dance ("You, You, You"), Claire soon reveals her macabre plan. Claire explains that she was pregnant by Anton as a teen, but because of Anton's false testimony, was forced to leave the town. She explains that the true purpose of her visit is to seek revenge, and offers to give the people billions if they will kill Anton.

The townspeople are at first repelled, but gradually rationalize their desire for material possessions ("Yellow Shoes"). Anton ultimately realizes that he is to blame for the misery that Claire has endured, and accepts responsibility ("Fear"). He and his family take one last joyful car-ride together ("A Car Ride"), and Claire and Anton make peace with the fate to come ("In the Forest Again"). The townspeople murder Anton ("Finale").

Song list

Act I
  • Out of the Darkness — Townspeople
  • At Last — Claire, Townspeople
  • I Walk Away — Claire, Entourage
  • I Know Claire — Anton
  • A Happy Ending — Mayor, Policeman, Doctor, Priest, Schoolmaster, Townspeople
  • You, You, You — Anton, Claire
  • I Must Have Been Something — Anton
  • Look at Me — Anton, Claire, Entourage, Eunuchs, Rudi, Young Anton, Young Claire, Family
  • A Masque — Mayor, Townspeople
  • Testimony — Louis, Jacob
  • Winter — Claire
  • Yellow Shoes — Townspeople
Act II
  • Chorale — Townspeople
  • A Confession — Claire, Entourage
  • I Would Never Leave You — Entourage, Claire
  • The One-Legged Tango — Entourage, Claire
  • Back and Forth — Matilda, Ottillie, Karl
  • The Only One — Schoolmaster
  • Fear — Anton
  • A Car Ride — Anton, Matilda, Ottillie, Karl
  • Winter (reprise) — Young Anton
  • Love and Love Alone — Claire
  • In the Forest Again — Anton, Claire
  • Finale — Townspeople

From the 2008 Signature Theatre production

Critical reaction

In reviewing the Signature Theatre production, theatre critic Peter Marks of The Washington Post wrote that it is an ..."admirable if not consistently embraceable musical", and that it ..."comes across as something short of electrifying with the addition of song and dance. It makes at times for a jarring art-house spectacle, as in the creepy contributions of Claire's eunuchs, harmonizing in falsetto. And yet there is also fine craftsmanship here, courtesy of director Frank Galati ("Ragtime") and a design team expertly conjuring a laconic, Brechtian physical realm..." The score is"...a melodically cohesive web of Middle European waltzes and choral numbers that befit the cynical strands in the story and the formality of Swiss society." [8]

Paul Harris, reviewing for Variety, wrote: "The polished Signature production offers much to admire, starting with an abundance of enjoyable melodies and clever lyrics from K&E...The radiant [Chita] Rivera offers a stylish performance as the aloof Claire, a woman eager to heap disdain on everyone she meets while guardedly avoiding remorse over the dirty plot against her only true love. She handles song and dance assignments with equal aplomb...[George] Hearn is equally credible...Not everything works. Trouble spots include an overly contrived act-one number in which the townspeople beg for Claire's help...But in its reincarnation, there is sufficient vitality, intrigue and entertaining music to make for a most satisfying "Visit."[9]

Notes

References

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