Some people are just born stars. They bring lustre in even the dullest projects. Chita Rivera brings lustre and sparkle at The Lyceum Theater every night in “The Visit,” and for ninety minutes you think all is well.
The show has a lot of things for it: it is based on the famed work by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, which I devoured when I was in High School, and the book is by Terence McNally. It is even the last collaboration by the legendary Kander and Ebb, and stars Chita (no last names, just Chita) It is directed by John Doyle, whose work I mostly dislike. I saw the Hal Prince production a few years back and I thought it was fine enough for Broadway. What is on stage at The Lyceum doesn’t really work in the most cohesive sense. First of all, it’s sort of bi-polar: it starts out kind of bitter, then veers towards sentimentality, and touches on a little bit of dark humour. Yes, it’s fine to see all those three things in one show, but in there it is never balanced correctly. The score is dark and Brechtian, and is melodious, complex, accessible, and haunting: just perfect match to the material. The costumes and sets are moody and match the score.
Chita is a marvel. From the moment she walks on that stage she commands it. A simple flick of her cape enthralls the audience. She is menacing, she is funny, she is a delight. You know you are seeing a living legend on screen, and if indeed this is her last Broadway role, then she leaves with a bang. If there is one compelling reason to see the show, it would be her. The rest of the cast services her well (Roger Rees is more an actor who sings and his pitch problems can be troublesome for others)
So is “The Visit” worth a visit? I think so – it seems almost a throwback from the Golden Years of Broadway – an imperfect show with a memorable score and a major star.