The Williamstown Theater Festival has given New York legiters a couple of reasons to spend a weekend in the Berkshires this summer, with Chita Rivera, Renee Fleming, Joe DiPietro and Kathleen Marshall on tap for the festival’s 2014 mainstage lineup.
Rivera will reprise a role she’s played before in “The Visit” (July 31-Aug. 17), the 2001 musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb (“Chicago,” “Cabaret”) that, thanks to its pedigree, has long been considered ripe for a possible Gotham incarnation. The actress initially starred in the show’s world preem in Chicago in 2001, when it was helmed by Frank Galati and choreographed by Ann Reinking. A 2003 Off Broadway production, also scheduled to star Rivera, never materialized, but she reprised her role in the Galati-Reinking staging in 2008 at Arlington, Va.’s Signature Theater. She also appeared in the musical in a 2011 concert benefit that played one night only at Broadway’s Ambassador Theater.
The new production at Williamstown will be directed by John Doyle (“Sweeney Todd,” the successful London rethink of “The Color Purple”) and choreographed by Graciela Daniele. With a book by Terrence McNally, whose latest play “Mothers and Sons” opens on Broadway in March, the storyline follows an ultra-wealthy woman (Rivera) who returns to her hometown to offer its impoverished residents a huge sum of money in exchange for murdering the man who wronged her years ago.
Opera star Fleming, meanwhile, will star in “Living on Love” (July 16-26), a new play by DiPietro, the scribe who won a Tony for “Memphis.” Kathleen Marshall, the Rialto regular (“Anything Goes,” “The Pajama Game”) who directed DiPietro’s “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” will helm the comedy adapted from Garson Kanin’s play “Pecadillo,” about married opera stars who hire ghost writers to pen competing autobiographies.
Also on WTF’s mainstage sked will be “June Moon” (July 2-13), Ring Lardner and George S. Kaufman’s Tin Pan Alley tale. Jessica Stone, the actress who previously helmed a well-received revival of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Forum” at WTF, directs.
A relatively short trip from New York City, the Williamstown, Mass., festival frequently attracts the attention of the Gotham theater industry. Incoming Broadway tuner “The Bridges of Madison County” had its world premiere there last year, and next fall’s revival of “The Elephant Man” starring Bradley Cooper originated there in 2012.
WTF’s 2014 season will be the last under the leadership of Jenny Gersten, who departs after three seasons to lead the organization behind Manhattan’s High Line. Mandy Greenfield, longtime artistic producer at Manhattan Theater Club, steps into the WTF post in September.
Further casting for the 2014 slate remains to be set, as do the titles to run on the festival’s second-stage space.