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Theater Review – THE VISIT with Chita Rivera

the visit – THE VISIT

If you are looking for Chita Rivera to stun you with a big song and dance number in Kander and Ebb’s The Visit, you won’t get that.  What you will get is a tour de force performance from one of Broadway’s most beloved veterans, worthy of a Tony Award.

Rivera plays the role of Claire Zachanassian,  the wealthiest woman in the world, who amassed her fortune thanks through the deaths of several husbands.  She returns to her home town (now bankrupt and poverty stricken) to wreak a little havoc – to seek revenge on the man who wronged her as a teenager and the townspeople who allowed this  injustice to happen.  Her wish is simple.  She will restore the town and its residents to their former glory if the town sacrifices the life of her now aged lover, Anton Shell, played by Roger Rees.  What unfolds is a haunting tale of scorned love, lies, greed and revenge.

Ms. Rivera has been with the show since the beginning, touring all over the country, finally landing on Broadway this season.  I am not sure who else could – or should – play Claire.  In a role that could have been written just for her, this amazing legend shines with an eerie and memorable performance playing the powerful villainess.

Rogers Rees is admirable in the role of Anton.  His vulnerability and fear is a stark contrast to Rivera’s domineering Claire.  Their story is told through both their eyes as older adults as well as the younger and carefree personas created by  John Riddle and Michelle Ventimiglia who, with relatively little speaking, communicate their story more through dance.  At one point, Claire’s happy memory of her romance with Anton results in a dance, with her younger self.  This is one of the brighter moments of the show, and for Rivera fans, gives us a taste of the dancer she once was.  For this fan, the moment that brought a tear to my eye.  The supporting cast members do a fine job with their respective characters’ growth, progressing from the need to take the moral high road to their own self preservation and ultimately greed.

Kander and Ebb’s score is perfect for the show. While the show has no big, splashy, razzle-dazzle number, it is instead filled with mysterious melodies and haunting lyrics.  While the lack of those big numbers might be considered a weakness of the show, that is not the case here.  Everything fits together.

This will probably be Miss Rivera’s last starring role on Broadway.  At 82, she has the perfect swan song to her illustrious career and she proves she is still a force to be reckoned with.  Don’t wait to see her.

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Theater Review – IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU

IT SHOULDA BEEN YOU

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A Jewish girl, a Catholic boy, their overbearing mothers,  the girl’s older unmarried sister and a wedding make for a very funny night on Broadway.   The show is clean, solid and humorous  with absolutely perfect direction by David Hyde Pierce.

The plot centers around the wedding day of Rebecca Steinberg (Sierra Bogess) and Brian Howard (David Burtka) but is really told through the eyes of Rebecca’s older sister, Jenny, played passionately by Lisa Howard.   While Jenny is a successful business woman, she is  reminded a few times by her mother (Tyne Daly) that she is overweight and single.   Daly’s character is not totally happy with the wedding but like many suffering mothers, will bear it.  Brian’s mother (Harriet Harris) imbibes a bit too much, and, like her counterpart, is also not thrilled that her son is marrying outside the fold. Jenny’s mission is to make sure that nothing comes between her sister’s happiness and the wedding celebration,  which includes the sudden appearance of Rebecca’s ex-boyfriend, Marty, played with great fervor by Josh Grisetti.  The supporting players – the fathers, the wedding planner, the hotel catering staff and a gossipy aunt on the bride’s side all add to the humorous plot.

As the wedding day progresses, things seem to go as planned – despite the objections and concerns of the two mothers and the ex-boyfriend.   However, while the wedding goes off without a hitch, what comes after the nuptials and before the reception is where the shocker  comes.   This witty twist was absolutely unexpected.   While some critics have called it predictable,  I did not see it coming and neither did anyone else in our group.  The twist was fresh and funny. However, enough said about the plot since any more would spoil the fun.

This is a highly entertaining show from start to finish.  The score is light and easy and moves the plot along nicely. The highlight of the show was Lisa Howard, who should have been nominated for a Tony.  She shines as the sister, trying to please everyone, except of course, herself.  She is beautiful and talented and brings so much warmth to her role that you cannot help but love her.    Daly, as usual, is the classic in her role as the Jewish mother and Harris is just as funny as the Catholic mother.  David Hyde Pierce is a comedy genius.  He moves the characters through each scene flawlessly and I laughed from start to finish.   This show is a must see.

The show was not nominated for any Tony Awards …but  I am hoping that it remains going longer based on word of mouth.    So here are my words — DON’T MISS THIS SHOW!!!!

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