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Williamstown Theatre Festival: The Visit (review)

Short Description of Williamstown Theatre Festival: The Visit (review)

The Visit
Williamstown Theatre Festival, Williamstown, MA
through August 17, 2014
by Walt Haggerty
 
“Here we go again. It’s all about fresh starts, new beginnings,” commented legendary superstar Chita Rivera. Based on Friedrich Durenmatt’s play, "The Visit" has been turned into a musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb, with a book by Terrance McNally. 
 
“The Visit” tells a dark and foreboding tale of a woman betrayed, abandoned and shamed by her lover. Late in life Claire returns to the village of her youth. The once beautiful and thriving community is decayed and the townspeople impoverished, including Anton, her former lover. Following a series of profitable marriages, Claire has become a woman of enormous wealth. Her mysterious visit is anticipated with curiosity as to why she has elected to return. The hope is that she will rescue her former neighbors. On arrival she makes an extraordinary offer, but demands an even more extraordinary price.
 
As Claire, Rivera delivers a dynamic performance destined to cap a career of more than half a century. She is incomparable. Roger Rees, as Claire’s former lover, portrays a character deserving of total contempt. Enacting Claire and Anton as young lovers are Michelle Veintimilla and John Bambery, respectively, who reflect the youth and beauty that once existed. As schoolmaster, Jason Danieley makes his solo, “The Only One,” powerful and moving. Distinctive characterizations are also contributed by Judy Kuhn, Melanie Field, and Rick Holmes.
 
The score and lyrics (Kander & Ebb) make this musical one of the team’s best, with each selection tailored precisely to the situations and characters as reflected in Claire’s bitter “I Walk Away” and “Anton’s egotistical, “I Must Have Been Something.” “Love and Love Alone,” sung and danced by Claire and Young Claire, is beautiful and moving. 
 
“The Visit,” directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele, is still a work in progress. The strong, sturdy framework is in place for a memorable, even great, evening of theatre. Perhaps a reconsideration of the most recent cuts and condensation of the current production might be revisited, with an eye to adding definition to key characterization. More extensive use of the marvelous music would also be most welcome.
 

THE VISIT

JULY 31 - AUGUST 17 | MAIN STAGE

Book by Terrence McNally
Music by John Kander
Lyrics by Fred Ebb
Based on the play by Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Translated by Maurice Valency
Choreographed by Graciela Daniele
Directed by John Doyle

In her Festival debut, 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 Festival favorite 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.

 

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Address: 1000 Main Street | Williamstown, MA

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