The Visit (Williamstown) OFF-BROADWAY REVIEWS

Photo: Paul Fox





Opening Night:
August 7, 2014
August 17, 2014

Theater: Williamstown Theatre Festival / 1000 Main Street, Williamstown, Massachusetts, 01267


Broadway legend Chita Rivera embodies Claire Zachanassian, the oft-widowed richest woman in the world, who returns to the hardship-stricken town of her birth. The locals pray that her wealth will bring them a new lease on life, but the carefully plotted renewal she offers carries a dreadful price. Sardonic and morally complex, The Visit asks: What can your heart afford? Featuring Roger Rees and helmed by Tony Award-winning director John Doyle, this incendiary musical is one of the last collaborations between the incomparable John Kander and Fred Ebb, with a book by Tony Award winner Terrence McNally and choreography by the legendary Graciela Daniele.

  • NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF The Visit (Williamstown)

    Once Scorned, Now Rich and Seeking Revenge Chita Rivera Stars in ‘The Visit’ at Williamstown

    Ben Brantley

    August 8, 2014: Chita Rivera knows how to bide her time. Portraying the much-married, well-widowed Claire Zachanassian, a billionaire for whom patience is a vicious virtue, Ms. Rivera holds calm and queenly sway over the macabre frenzy of The Visit, John Doyle’s newly revamped version of the 2001 John Kander and Fred Ebb musical at the Williamstown Theater Festival. Both the actress and the character she plays demonstrate that waiting can be a fine art. How they do so defines the essence of that controlled charisma we call star power. For long stretches of this mixed-signal-sending adaptation of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 play about the wages of sin in a capitalist world, Ms. Rivera is often required to stand stock still and radiate the sense that everyone will come to her. She must also make us believe that when and if she chooses to stir, it will not be an anticlimax. That she is not mistaken in either assumption makes this Visit an essential visit for anyone who cherishes the rare and endangered species of the Broadway musical goddess. And there’s no fault to be found within the rest of a top-line cast, led by Roger Rees as Anton, Claire’s desiccated love interest, and featuring the accomplished likes of Judy Kuhn, Jason Danieley and David Garrison in supporting roles.

  • VARIETY REVIEW OF The Visit (Williamstown)

    The latest revamp of the 2001 Kander and Ebb musical has a surefire hook and a killer role for Rivera.

    Frank Rizzo

    August 4, 2014: There’s a delicious moment in the reworked musical The Visit when Chita Rivera, playing Claire Zachanassian, the world’s richest woman, speaks of her eventful, much-widowed life and her near-death experiences that claimed several of her limbs. She ends her tale with the deadpan declarative: “I’m un-killable.” You could say the same thing about the 2001 show, brought back to life by the Williamstown Theater Festival in a revamped and much-shortened version that proves often entertaining but only occasionally captivating. This elegiac production’s commercial potential is iffy, but the plot’s morality conundrum is surefire — a musical “What Would You Do?” — and theater faithful will certainly want to revisit, if only to see Rivera in a juicy starring role. The musical by John Kander and the late Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret) has had a series of false starts and near misses since its 2001 premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, where it opened to mixed reviews. Following a 2008 revival at Virginia’s Signature Theater, the tuner has taken on fresh collaborators in director John Doyle and choreographer Graciela Daniele, as well as a new leading man, Roger Rees, to star opposite Rivera, who’s been with the project all along in the killer lead role. Dressed here in Ann Hould Ward’s ice-queen outfits, Rivera is the lioness in winter: magisterial, cunning and absolutely frozen in her mission as Claire returns to the poor, post-war European town of her youth, offering the gift of her billions.

  • THE BOSTON GLOBE REVIEW OF The Visit (Williamstown)

    A lethal bargain in Williamstown Theatre Festival’s ‘The Visit’

    Don Aucoin

    August 4, 2014: When a regal billionaire played by Chita Rivera in The Visit’ told her ex-lover that “I’m unkillable’’ Saturday night, the audience at Williamstown Theatre Festival burst into knowing applause. At 81, Rivera has certainly overcome her share of challenges — and so has The Visit, a musical with a complicated production history that is now alive and well at Williamstown under the expert ministrations of director John Doyle. Costarring Roger Rees, with music by John Kander, lyrics by the late Fred Ebb, and a book by the playwright Terrence McNally, “The Visit’’ is an engrossing meditation, somber and darkly funny by turns, on love gone wrong, on the slippery slope of human morality once greed enters the picture, on revenge, corruption, and hypocrisy. It probably goes without saying that all of those base impulses are pitches in the creative wheelhouse of Kander & Ebb, the team behind “Cabaret,’’ “Chicago,’’ and “Kiss of the Spider Woman’’ (the latter two of which starred Rivera). There’s no showstopping number in “The Visit’’ to rival the title tune from “Cabaret,’’ or “All That Jazz,’’ from “Chicago.’’ But the production at Williamstown has its own considerable strengths, its director chief among them.

  • NEW YORK OBSERVER REVIEW OF The Visit (Williamstown)

    Chita Rivera in new version of The Visit at Williamstown

    Rex Reed

    August 7, 2014: Dark, depressing and downbeat as Dante’s Inferno, Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s stinging drama The Visit has intrigued producers ever since its initial New York premiere electrified Broadway in 1958 with Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne making theatre history. Twice revived since then in stage productions starring Rachel Roberts and Jane Alexander, and diluted into a second-rate movie in 1964 with Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn, The Visit is back this summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. This time it’s a musical! Originally conceived by Terrence McNally, with a somber musical score by the esteemed team of John Kander and Fred Ebb, as a vehicle for Angela Lansbury, it first lost its star and then Ebb. But it persevered, in various productions throughout the globe, all plagued with one hurdle after another. This summer, after 14 years of shaping, structuring and re-writing, it’s hammering audiences to their seats again, under the careful direction of John Doyle, in the best condition since its musical inception. And in the dazzling, legendary Chita Rivera, it’s found a polished star to bring it to life once more. A story of cutting cynicism, with Mr. Dürrenmatt’s twisted theme—in a corrupt world, you always get the kind of justice you can afford—more relevant than ever, The Visit is not easy to absorb on a sunny August day when your friends are at picnics on the beach. But invest a few hours in this production on the shamrock-green campus of Williams College and you’ll be glad you did.


    ‘The Visit’ with Chita Rivera gets an epic production at Williamstown Theatre Festival

    Larry Murray & Gail M. Burns

    August 3, 2014: From the moment you take your seat at the 62 Center where the Williamstown Theatre Festival performs, you know you are in for a special evening. Soaring into the flies on stage is Scott Pask’s single set that will contain the evening’s performance of The Visit. This tuneful John Kander and Fred Ebb musical has been trying to get to Broadway since 2001. With a book by Terrence McNally and Chita Rivera in the lead role as Claire Zachanassian, it could be well on its way. The WTF production is directed by John Doyle, who knows how to showcase the darker side of human nature, the rich manipulating the poor, and it couldn’t be more timely. This is billed as Kander and Ebb but since Fred Ebb’s death in 2004 Kander and McNally have formed the creative team. Doyle made many changes for this version – cutting the show from two and a half hours and two acts down to a 95 minute one act form – so the lyrics have obviously been changed since Ebb wrote them. The 2001 production was put together at Chicago’s Goodman but 9/11 killed its prospects when New York producers were unable to fly in to see it. The Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA staged a workshop production in 2008 and now in 2014 it looks like the Williamstown team has put together the definitive version. Earlier productions were a bit top heavy having incorporated far too many characters and details from Friedrich Dürrenmat’s 1956 satirical play about greed and revenge Der Besuch der alten Dame. The tightening up of the show has worked well, and only a few songs have been lost – the Chorale that opened Act 2, Claire’s “Confession” song, and the reprise of “Winter” by a Young Adam. Other songs have likely been shortened a bit to keep things moving swiftly. They were not missed, since the story is still delightfully rich, full of detail.



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