Tony Nominated “The Visit” Puts Chita Rivera Back on Top by Kevin M. Thomas

Tom Nelis, Chita Rivera, Chris Newcomer - Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson

Tom Nelis, Chita Rivera, Chris Newcomer – Photo Credit: T Charles Erickson

Some things are worth the wait.

After a pre-Broadway tryout 14 years ago, John Kander and Fred Ebb’s “The Visit” finally makes it to the Great White Way. 

Perhaps a bit shorter than its original Chicago production, but Chita Rivera still remains the lead and is still in good form. The musical icon is up for the challenge to play one of the richest women in the world who returns to her hometown strictly to punish her jilted lover from so many years ago. 

This satire on greed and revenge has more bite now that Rivera is a bit older than the character she played so many years ago, giving what her character more time to simmer in her plot of hate and spite, all-the-while still longing for the man who scorned her, played by Roger Rees (but in my matinee understand Tom Nelis handsomely fit the bill).

imagesThis is the third great success from the team of Kander and Ebb, since Ebb died in 2004. First there was “Curtains,” their unfinished show that was completed by Rupert Holmes. Then, “The Scottsboro Boys” was dusted off from their unseen archives and was a critical smash in 2010. All of these shows certainly add a lot of credence to the legacy of Kander and Ebb, helping further establish them as one of the best songwriting teams of the modern era.

“The Visit” didn’t take 14 years to get to Broadway due to any problems with the show. It was shelved as it came out around Sept. 11, 2001 and no one was traveling, let alone seeing shows.

But sometimes, like a fine wine, things are worth the wait.  This 90 minute production of “The Visit” is tight and the story moves forward.  Terrence McNally’s book is sardonic and biting – a perfect partner to Rivera who devours each morsel of dialogue.

The terrific cast is uniformly wonderful with John Riddle’s beautiful voice making him a standout in the part of the young Anton.

Another “star” of the show is the Tony nominated lighting design of Japhy Weideman. The lighting makes many scenes cold, adding to the plot of the Swiss town being depressed. Yet, in flashback scenes showing a blossoming love, Weideman’s lighting warms up the stage and seems bright and vibrant, helping make scenes come to life.

Not the best work of Kander, Ebb, McNally or Rivera, but still quality piece.

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