When I went back to look at my report from the 2011 concert, I had a few quibbles about the book and the score, but adored Chita and some of the songs. Thinking back, I probably have a lot of those same quibbles, but while I was watching the show last night? I was completely blown away and so incredibly moved throughout. I think I freaked out my seat neighbor by how overcome I was throughout the evening. I had to get out of the theater immediately so I could go home and cry in peace. A good theatrical cry, of course.
Dark, scary stuff. This production has been streamlined to one act, about 95 minutes, and it's an expressionistic runaway train ride throughout. Once the musical starts, it throttles towards the inevitable conclusion. But the depth of hate and love and rage and despair and revenge is remarkable. Most of the depths come from the remarkable woman at the center of this production, Chita Rivera. She is monumental, truly spectacular, as this monster of a woman who wants revenge, but whose revenge is still tinged in love and regret. Watching her see her younger self on stage and sharing moments of wonder with her soon-to-be-dead lover were incredibly heartbreaking. At least for me.
|photo credit: Joan Marcus|
The songs have been orchestrated in such a way that they crescendo in all the right places, with a vaguely sinister sound underneath. Though there are still recognizable beats of the Kander & Ebb sound throughout. The song "You, You, You" is now done as a quartet, with the older and younger selves of Claire and Anton singing about their past, present and future - it was glorious. And "Love and Love Alone," now staged as a solo for Claire and then it segues into a dance duet between Claire and her younger self, is a true theatrical treasure. I also adored "The Only One," sung by the superlative Jason Danieley as the schoolteacher and one near-holdout who wants to save Anton but isn't strong enough to see it through.
|photo credit: Thom Kaine|
The set, lights and costumes were terrific, but the makeup was a tad distracting - I'm not sure if they were going for some sort of expressionistic 'grime' or if I was just too close and the makeup looked too heavy. And I will admit that when I heard John Doyle was directing this new incarnation, I was apprehensive. I'm not completely on board with his approach and I really had a hard time with the last show of his that I saw. I'm happy to report that I didn't have a huge problem with his work on The Visit, though every now and again I would think, oh my god, they're marching again! I don't know what it is about the marching that intrigues him so...
|photo credit: Gregg Delman|
I also wanted to share a little seat neighbor and pre-show report. On my way to the theater, my way was blocked by a group of kids doing the chicken dance in front of the Swatch store so no one could get by. THE CHICKEN DANCE. Seriously. Dear tourists: don't do that. No one likes it. I finally got to the theater and found my seat, which was extremely house left, similar to my seat for the 2011 concert. I was a little disappointed to be so far over again, but oh well. I did have an enjoyable time listening to my seat neighbors discuss their likes and dislikes. Like? Between Riverside and the Happy Place (their title, not mine). And then they were thrilled they got to see Between Riverside and the Happy Place because American Psycho didn't come in. Which they pronounced American Pseeko. The 'p' wasn't silent. I kid you not. It was a group of three ladies, two next to me and one in front. There was an empty seat next to the lady in front. After the first two numbers, ushers seated latecomers. There was a latecomer for that empty seat and the lady in front was incensed. INCENSED. She actually got up to argue with the usher about having to take her coat off the seat. These ladies were crazy. Oh, and there was another gal who yelled at the usher who told her to go to her 'other right,' because when he said 'go to your right' and she went left, everyone was confused. But 'other right' set her off even more. I just kept thinking, people, we're going to see Chita. Let's all just calm the f*ck down... Oh, and the cell phones that kept ringing and ringing? Someday I'm going to have to break a phone. Turn them off, people.
Back to the show: I hope all of you are opening a new tab on your computers and buying tickets to The Visit right now. I wish I could be a better reviewer and make you understand just what a wonderfully sad and beautiful experience this musical is. And what amazing performances are being given by Chita Rivera and Roger Rees. But even if you don't have time to see it right now, please just whisper a little prayer that the show doesn't get creamed in the papers tomorrow. We need shows like this to offset the big, brassy musicals (which I also enjoy). We need them all.