Music: John Kander
Lyrics: Fred Ebb
Conductor: David Loud
Reviewer: Jackson Cooper
Some of the greatest accomplishments of music were written later in a composer’s career: Verdi’s Falstaff, Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” Symphony, Mozart Requiem, etc. Perhaps time and maturity gives composers enough momentum to keep writing into their later years…and over a long period of time.
Future theatre textbooks will look back on the history of Kander and Ebb’s The Visit and note its team’s persistence and dedication to the work and making it into something more than a blockbuster Broadway hit. It is so much more than that.
For one thing, it is a star-vehicle. Broadway today boasts more book/movie-to-musical adaptations than star vehicles. Rightfully so: the Broadway to Hollywood star making system has been reversed, more movie stars are going to Broadway to perhaps strengthen their acting chops. The Great White Way is now a destination not an avenue to being a “serious actor”.
Though The Visit proves that even with the infestation of movie stars on Broadway, theatregoers will still flock to see a theatre star perform in a show. Ms. Rivera’s fame has earned her the nightly standing ovation she received when she made her first entrance in the show. Thank goodness the show is a good one too (how shameful it would be for Ms. Rivera to return to the Broadway stage in a poorly-written show).
The Visit is a dark story of revenge and righteousness redeemed. Originally a play written by Friedrich Durrenmatt, the musical follows Claire Zachanassian, one of the wealthiest women in the world, who returns to her hometown with the plan of recruiting the townsfolk to murder Anton Schell, a man who left her many years ago. The original source material is a work of Expressionistic drama, moulding melodrama with absurdist staging/costumes to create a dreamlike state of being. Kander &Ebb’s score plays to the Expressionistic ideals: blending European sounds with rowdy rhythmic melodies that create a mood of warmth in its brightest moments and despair in its darkest.
What is ironic about the score is that, despite the darkest undertones of the story, the score resonates hope within the characters. Every song displays some sort of hope for each character, the music often being sad yet beautiful in melody—these characters and yearn (and sing) for a better tomorrow.
The Visit may not have the bubbly froth of Gigi or the toe-tapping frenzy of Kinky Boots, but it does rank as a mature and highly accessible Broadway score. For years to come, theatre fans and scholars will look to The Visit as an example of true Broadway musicality. Thank goodness, after over 10 years of development, it has finally seen the light of day.