Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dark Musical Gets a Shining Turn from Chita Rivera

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Dark Musical Gets a Shining Turn from Chita Rivera

Article excerpt

Apart from anything else, the arrival of "The Visit" on Broadway after a delay of 14 years is its own kind of triumph.

The musical, which opened Thursday night at the Lyceum Theatre, had its 2001 debut canceled - for non-theatrical reasons - and, despite other productions around the country, and revisions, it never made it back. It would be nice to say that persistence has resulted in a winner, but the show is a very mixed bag.

Elegantly directed by John Doyle, and with a thrilling lead performance by the remarkable and ageless Chita Rivera - celebrating her 60th anniversary on Broadway - the 1-hour-40-minute production is very stylish. But that can't mask a case of split personality.

With a book by Terrence McNally, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb (who died in 2004), the musical is an adaptation of Friedrich Durrenmatt's very dark satirical play of the same name.

The world's richest woman, Claire Zachanassian (Rivera), returns to the small European village where she was born many years earlier, with vengeance on her mind. Growing up a half-Jewish, half-Gypsy outcast, she fell in love as a teenager with the handsome Anton Schell, who impregnated and then rejected her. She left town and became a prostitute, before enriching herself through a series of advantageous marriages.

Claire has come back to her impoverished hometown with a proposition: She'll give the village and everyone living there a fortune - if the residents will murder Anton (Roger Rees), who's become a shopkeeper.

The initial moral outrage at her offer is slowly whittled away by greed - even Anton's wife and children go on an anticipatory shopping spree - until Anton's death, on which the town's elders will vote, seems an entirely reasonable idea, even to him.

Kander and Ebb's songs, sometimes reminiscent of their edgy, sardonic score for "Chicago," convey human frailty with pitiless humor. …

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