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MacLaine may ‘Visit’ Broadway

Lansbury, Close both withdraw, so Shirley's it

NEW YORK — Shirley MacLaine has been offered the starring role in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s new musical “The Visit” now that Glenn Close has passed.

Angela Lansbury, who had long been associated with the project, pulled out of the show on July 20 due to the illness of her husband, Peter Shaw.

Prior to Lansbury’s departure, a March 15 opening at the Broadway Theater had been announced, with previews beginning Feb. 24.

When she exited the production, Lansbury wrote a letter to “Visit” producer Barry Brown saying, “The kind of commitment required of an artist carrying a multimillion-dollar production has to be 100%, and in fairness to you, I realize I simply couldn’t manage being available to you and the company, and fulfill my desire and need to care for Peter. I wouldn’t have had this happen for the world, if I could have avoided it.”

Close considered it but recently passed on the project.

If MacLaine headlines “The Visit,” it would be her first Broadway musical gig since she subbed for an injured Carol Haney in the original 1954 production of “The Pajama Game.”

As legend has it, MacLaine sang “Steam Heat” and talent scouts quickly gave the ex-chorus girl a one-way ticket to Hollywood stardom. Her film debut came a year later in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Trouble With Harry.”

In addition to her bigscreen work, the Oscar-winning actress has appeared in various musical revues in Las Vegas, Gotham and elsewhere.

If the Broadway production of “The Visit” does not materialize for the 2000-01 season, a West End version may, with Judi Dench or Diana Rigg headlining.

On Broadway, Frank Galati will direct, with Ann Reinking set as choreographer.

Friedrich Durrenmatt’s 1956 play “The Visit” is not typical source material for a Broadway musical. In it, the millionairess Karla Zacchanassian offers her native village a fortune in exchange for a man’s life. The townspeople then hunt down and kill the man, Serge Miller, who had been Zacchanassian’s lover decades earlier.

Philip Bosco, currently starring in “Copenhagen” on Broadway, has been signed to play Miller. Terrence McNally wrote the book for “The Visit.”

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