Chita Rivera Pays Broadway a Visit
By Jordan Shavarebi
Chita Rivera has played some pretty horrifying broads in her day. At the hands of song crafting geniuses John Kander and (the late) Fred Ebb, she’s brought macabre life to the sharp-shooting Velma Kelly in Chicago, the prisoner’s specter muse Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and since 2001 she’s been attempting to resuscitate a wealthy widow (one hundred times over) with murderous plans in the on-again-off-again Kander and Ebb musical The Visit. On Wednesday, November 30th, the monster will walk at Broadway’s Ambassador Theatre.
The Visit has an appropriately spooky history. Based on Friedrich Durrenmatt’s 1956 satirical play Der Besuch der alten Dame, it was originally developed as a show for Angela Lansbury and scheduled for a Broadway run in March 2001. But Lansbury was forced o withdraw from the show due to the illness of her husband. And then… he died. Next, Chita Rivera was wrangled and persuaded (it surely took little persuading) to play the murderous Claire Zachanassian, and with Frank Galati as director and Ann Reinking as choreographer, it seemed destine to win. It opened at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago to rave reviews with John McMartin opposite Rivera… but then September 11th happened. And the show didn’t move to Broadway because, as Galati put it, “the whole idea of moving a very dark parable about human greed and the dark side of human nature,” wasn’t exactly what New Yorkers were clamoring for. Then came a canceled engagement at off-Broadway’s Public Theatre, and a relatively successful production at the Signature in Virginia. And now, for one night only, you can catch the show on the New York Stage for the first time.
According to the press notes: “Claire Zachanassian (Rivera) was driven from her hometown in disgrace when she was 17, having been betrayed by her lover Anton Schell (Cullum). Several decades and seven husbands later, Zachanassian has become the richest woman in the world, yet her hometown has fallen on hard times. When Zachanassian returns with an offer to save the town, salvation comes with an outrageous price tag." There are singing eunuchs, greedy, gossipy townsladies, and a murderous diva. What’s not to love?
Tickets are on sale now. Visit www.actorsfund.org
For chills, watch Chita Rivera sing a number from the show. Fred Ebb said, “I don’t know that we’ve ever written a better song.”