Mom Theatre Blogger: THE VISIT: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman
The set alone is a conversation piece in this dark, but entrancing showpiece for the iconic 82 year old triple threat Chita Rivera. As Claire Zachannassian, she commands the stage majestically, particularly as she stands surrounded by arches of dried up intertwined branches that make up the set, creating an ominous portrait of a decaying town.
But, it’s not just the village of Brachen that’s got a look as hard as stone….it’s the heart of Claire, a once beautiful, alluring “wildcat” young woman both desired and scorned, at a particularly sensitive time — when she was with child. Roger Rees, as Anton Schell, her once young “panther” lover, denied responsibility and enlisted the help of two men who falsely claim they as well had intimate interludes with Claire.
The stately Rivera and a scruffy Rees reconnect when, after decades have passed, she visits the town, complete with an entourage of two sunglass, yellow shoe-wearing, cane-wielding blind eunuchs and a loyal butler who was once chief justice of the town. She returns not for the purpose of rekindling love lost, but revenge…..and of the ultimate kind. Because of her great wealth accumulated through various marriages, she has been single-handled buying up and taking down the town, leading it to a state of shambles. When she re-enters, she proposes to invest riches back into the town, but at what price? And, will the townspeople support her morbid mission?
This musical (90 minutes, no intermission) has the vibe of a macabre fable. A black, ever-present revolving casket makes for an active centerpiece used by the dancers in particular. And, we ultimately come to understand why it’s a constant focal point.
Dramatic, stark lighting by Japhy Weiderman captures the mood brilliantly. Makeup and costumes, including the symbolic touches of yellow that emerge to represent money, add to the vibe.
The music is haunting, and the dancing is dreamy, expressive and seductive, and is particularly lovely when Rivera moves gracefully with the character of her younger self exquisitely portrayed by Michelle Veintimilla. John Riddle as Young Anton complements her perfectly, and both have strong voices as well as dance moves.
The rest of the talented cast includes George Abud as Karl, Jason Danieley as Frederich Kuhn, Matthew Deming as Louis Perch, Diana Dimarzio as Annie Dummermut, Tony® Award-nominee David Garrison as Peter Dummermut, Rick Holmes as Father Josef, Tom Nelis as Rudi, Chris Newcomer as Jacob Chicken, Mary Beth Peil as Matilde Schell, Aaron Ramey as Otto Hahnke, Elena Shadow as Ottilie and Timothy Shew as Hans Nusselin,
Based on the satirical play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt as adapted by Maurice Valency, The Visit features music and lyrics by the John Kander & Fred Ebb, book by four-time Tony Award®-winning playwright Terrence McNally, choreography by Tony Award®-nominee Graciela Daniele, scenic design by Scott Pask, costume design by Ann Hould Ward, lighting design by Japhy Weideman, sound design by Dan Moses Schreier and music direction and arrangements by David Loud with orchestrations by Larry Hochman. The Visit is helmed by Tony Award®-winning director John Doyle.
Rivera is a Broadway gem, and a chance to see her perform is worth it’s weight in….should I say….in keeping with the play…..yellow shoes?!
Visit www.TheVisitMusical. The Visit is playing at the Lyceum Theatre (149 West 45th Street).