All posts by Chris Newcomer

Why “The Visit” matters (and you should see it!)

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This is not a last minute Hail Mary to save my job.  The die is cast and we are closing Sunday.  This is partly me trying to make sense of the roller coaster I have been on since the Tonys and partly a plea to my friends in theatre and opera (and finance and construction and any other human endeavor) to see this show before it’s gone.

I’m simply going to present facts.

This company is made up of a group of broadway veterans whose combined bodies of work total more than 100 Broadway shows.  Under the baton of the incomparable David Loud 16 people sound like a chorus of 60 and our Orchestra plays from their tiny hobbit hole playing every difficult part John has written with ease and grace. We would arrive to rehearsal early, excited to be there to work on this piece together and nothing has changed.  You can be sure we will be savoring this last week together.

Terrence McNally, John Kander and Fred Ebb started working on this beautiful story and score nearly 15 years ago and presented it for the first time right before 9/11.  When that unfortunate timing put a damper on a Broadway transfer they persevered and 15 years, three cities and four productions later not even the death of Fred Ebb could stop them.

 

Tom Kirdahy our lead producer saw that first production in Chicago and has turned “The Visit” into his passion project.  I have never in my life seen someone fight so hard for a show or believe so much in the company he’s put together.

Every night we enter the stage and tell this beautifully strange and dark story as simply as possible in a way that never lets you sit back and say, “Now I get it!”.  You are alone with your thoughts and our story for 95 minutes where you are forced to ask yourself life questions by the painting/tone poem/chamber operetta/requiem unfolding before you.  The reformation of the show in this way (Which pushes our art form to new heights) is thanks to the  leadership and vision of John Doyle.  His main goal was telling this story simply and beautifully and making a piece of theatre that left the thinking up to the audience.  An old concept all too often missing from modern theatrical productions.

Finally there is Chita.  I don’t know that I can say anything that hasn’t been said, but I’ll try.  She leads our company the only way she knows how: by working as hard as possible and finding the joy in making art with her friends.  Chita takes the work seriously but not herself and therein lies the key.  She is utterly approachable, undeniably charming, gobsmackingly talented and giving the performance of her lifetime.  You can see the expertise in every controlled step and every uttered word.  I defy you to see her in this show and not be completely electrified by her.
We share a love of American cheese, Tequila and giggling and I have never been more proud to share a stage with someone.

I’ll leave you with a quick anecdote.  On April 30th my dad got a new kidney. A wonderful beautiful gift he received from a family friend.  An amazing thing, but I couldn’t be there because of the show and was coming into work just as he was coming out of surgery.  I knew it was okay but I hadn’t spoken to him yet and I was feeling very raw.  Chita was the first person I saw, she asked how he was and I burst into tears.  She and the amazing Mary Beth Peil pulled me into Chita’s room hugged me calmed me down and gave me tissues.  Then Chita said, “What’s your dad’s Number?”  She then texted him this:

Dear Greg,
Thinking of you and sending much love,
know you will be up and about soon to
champion Chris and our show, we need you.
 Love,
Chita

Not only a gracious gesture, but having only met my dad once she knew the way to encourage his recovery was a call to action (before and after his surgery he was calling every paper he could think of to publicize the show).  🙂

SO, come see this amazing group of caring individuals on Broadway.  You have 7 chances left to see history onstage.