Saturday, June 14, 2008

photo: Scott Suchman

The Signature's austere, superbly realized production of a newly revised version of The Visit is extraordinary music theatre of high quality: Terrence McNally's adaptation of the grim morality tale has great dramatic impact, and the cohesive Kander & Ebb score rates consideration with some of their best work. After a flawless first act, the storytelling missteps - once we know the dark reason why the world's richest woman has descended on the desperately poor town where she grew up, we have limited patience for the romanticized remembrances of her first love (even if it is George Hearn taking the trip down memory lane about Chita Rivera.) The two stage vets are riveting, often using stillness to great effect, and Hearn - who has a challenging job as the emotional center of the cold-eyed story - has a subtle and profoundly sad moment in the second act that moved many in the audience to instant tears. Rivera's character walks around with a cane thanks to a wooden leg, but the show nonetheless contrives a way for her to have an Ann Reinking-choreographed dance number. Is there anyone with blood in their veins who is fool enough to complain about that?

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