“A ghost on a visit from the past”
The final musical written by Kander and Ebb together before the latter’s passing in 2004, The Visit has had a bit of a troubled history trying to make its way to Broadway. Original star Angela Lansbury having to withdraw due to her husband’s ill health, Chita Rivera stepping in but the hopes to transfer the out of town tryout in Autumn 2001 scuppered by the post 9/11 climate, consistent issues with financing…
But Rivera stuck with the show through various readings, concerts and mini-runs, culminating in a new one-act version directed by John Doyle, which eventually landed at the Lyceum Theatre on Broadway for not even two months. Musicals – who’d do em?! Fortunately though, this cast recording was created to help its legacy live on and hopefully, one imagines, inspire Thom Southerland to put on a production over here sometime soon!
Based on Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s 1956 satirical play Der Besuch der alten Dame, you know – that one! – Terrence McNally’s book is fantastically dark. It follows one of the richest women in the world as she returns to her impoverished hometown where she offers to bribe the townsfolk in exchange for murdering a man who broke her heart as a young’un. So a light musical comedy then! But in Rivera and co-star Roger Rees’ hands, it’s an achingly good character study.
Songs like ‘You You You’ and the hauntingly excellent ‘Love and Love Alone’ shimmer with longing and love, even in the midst of all the darkness here, as best exemplified in the chilling edges of tracks like ‘I Walk Away’ and ‘Winter’. That romance and fun (I also really ‘Yellow Shoes’) blend in so well make The Visit a real journey (sorry for using the word) and a fitting tribute to both the work of Kander and Ebb, and the lasting talent of the estimable Ms Rivera.