UPDATED Review Roundup: Williamstown Theatre Festival's THE VISIT Starring Chita Rivera
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Let's see what the critics had to say:
Don Aucoin of the Boston Globe: A Tony Award winner for his 2005 revival of "Sweeney Todd,' Doyle is known for a minimalist aesthetic. "The Visit' is a streamlined version of the show that premiered 13 years ago at Chicago's Goodman Theatre, was produced again in 2008 at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Va., and has yet to make it to Broadway. "The Visit' reminds us that the key to Doyle's technique over the years is that he doesn't leave out anything vital. It's not just cutting for the sake of cutting; what he's after is essence. A passionate heart beats inside "The Visit,' for all its formal innovation and chilly beauty.
CT Now: ....it's not just lean, it's anorexic. Other than the two leading characters, everyone seems like a cartoon cutout. I respect economical writing and understand the use of archetypes but it seems out of balance with the human and romantic aspects it clearly wants to make. What's the show's future?: Still to be determined but for a summer show in the Berkshires it's one of the hottest tickets and the musical has much to be admired, several terrific numbers and a fine ensemble.
Berkshire On Stage and Screen: From the moment you take your seat at the 62 Center where the Williamstown Theatre Festival performs, you know you are in for a special evening. Soaring into the flies on stage is Scott Pask's single set that will contain the evening's performance of The Visit. This tuneful John Kander and Fred Ebb musical has been trying to get to Broadway since 2001. With a book by Terrence McNally and Chita Rivera in the lead role as Claire Zachanassian, it could be well on its way. The WTF production is directed by John Doyle, who knows how to showcase the darker side of human nature, the rich manipulating the poor, and it couldn't be more timely.
Frank Rizzo of variety.com: Kander and Ebb's score balances the cynical story with showbiz savvy, atmospheric motifs and lilting ballads. There's a haunting song, "Love and Love Alone," in which the older Claire sublimely dances with her younger self, and "Yellow Shoes," terrifically staged by Daniele, is a chilling razzmatazz number that's as good as any from "Cabaret," "Chicago" or "The Scottsboro Boys." But Anton's songs aren't top drawer, and a song of shame by the schoolmaster (Jason Danieley) comes well after we know where he stands. Other musical opportunities are missed along the way: Anton's scene with his daughter begs for a song, but instead we get a family-outing number with little emotional impact... Despite the weakness of some of his material, Rees gives a powerful and complex performance as Anton goes from village loser to potential hero, before meeting his fate with fear, resignation and grace. The cast of strong singers is first-rate in roles that are more archetypical and symbolic than substantial.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times: And, yes, at 81, Ms. Rivera can still memorably flounce a skirt - and shake a leg and extend a gorgeous gam at a perpendicular angle. Every rationed gesture registers incisively, as does every withering put-down Claire utters with invulnerable assurance. Her sharp, husky singing voice is unmistakably the one that came out of the original Anita (in "West Side Story") and Rosie (in "Bye Bye Birdie") and Velma (in "Chicago"). The show's contradictions are reconciled in Ms. Rivera. She is indeed hot and cold at the same time, a commanding force of arrogance fueled by love. And not just Claire's love for Anton, but Ms. Rivera's for performing. When Claire dances wistfully with her younger self, it's hard to feel too sorry for her. Who wants the girl that was, when the woman that she's become can rule the world with a single, perfectly chosen gesture?
Richard Self of DC Theatre Scene: And [Chita Rivera] treats her talent with respect, acknowledging it was a gift, one that must be nourished and nurtured. It should be made mandatory for all graduating students from the schools that offer training for the performing arts to see her in The Visit if we're all lucky enough to have its run extended, to have it moved to the New York market place, for there it would be more accessible to many. There is great stillness in her performance of Claire, and it takes her full circle from that first impression most had of her as Anita in West Side Story, for in that landmark performance she was never still - she was fire and ice.
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Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson