Stage Musical Based on Hit Indie Film 'The Visitor' Sets Public Theater Premiere

The Visitor Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Visitor Holdings, LLC

The Visitor Still - H 2014

The 'Next to Normal' team of Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey penned the score for the adaptation of writer-director Tom McCarthy's intimate 2007 drama that starred Richard Jenkins and Danai Gurira.

The Public Theater has announced dates and casting for the off-Broadway world premiere of The Visitor, the new musical based on writer-director Tom McCarthy's acclaimed indie film.

The show's score is by the Pulitzer-winning Next to Normal team of composer Tom Kitt and lyricist Brian Yorkey, with a book by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Yorkey. Daniel Sullivan will direct the production, with choreography by Lorin Lataro.

The movie starred Richard Jenkins in an Oscar-nominated performance as Connecticut college professor Walter Vale, who returns to New York to attend a conference and finds an illegal immigrant couple, Palestinian-Syrian djembe player Tarek and Senegalese jewelry designer Zainab, occupying his apartment. Sympathizing with their plight, Walter invites them to stay, his involvement deepening when Tarek is placed in an immigrant detention center in Queens and the musician's mother, Mouna, unexpectedly arrives from Syria.

In addition to Jenkins, the intimate drama also starred Danai Gurira as Zainab, Haaz Sleiman as Tarek and Hiam Abbass as Mouna.

David Hyde Pierce will head the cast as Walter on stage, with Jacqueline Antaramian as Mouna, Joaquina Kalukango as Zainab and Ari'el Stachel, a 2018 Tony winner for The Band's Visit, as Tarek. Performances begin March 24 in a run scheduled through May 10.

Also newly announced for the Public's 2019-20 season is the New York premiere of David Henry Hwang and Jeanine Tesori's musical Soft Power, an exploration of America's current place in the world told through an East-West musical with a Chinese perspective. Leigh Silverman directs the production, which runs Sept. 24-Nov. 3.

Two canonical shows from the Public's history will return in revivals — Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enough and Tony Kushner's A Bright Room Called Day.

"Both of these extraordinary works speak with astonishing directness to this exact contemporary moment," said Public Theater artistic director Oskar Eustis.

Shange's poetic, form-busting 1976 exploration of the survival stories of seven women of color in the face of racism and sexism runs Oct. 8-Nov. 17, directed by Leah C. Gardiner and choreographed by Camille A. Brown, a current Tony nominee for Choir Boy. Kushner's provocative 1985 drama paralleling the rise to power of the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany with the threat of authoritarianism in Reagan's America is set for Oct. 29-Dec. 8. Eustis will direct a revised version of the play, with a cast including Jonathan Hadary, Linda Emond and Estelle Parsons.

Also on the season slate is writer-director Richard Nelson's latest chapter in his acclaimed Rhinebeck Panorama examining the political and social fabric of 21st century America, which included the play cycles The Apple Family and The Gabriels. The new work is titled The Michaels, running Oct. 19-Nov. 17 with a cast that includes Nelson regulars Maryann Plunkett and Jay O. Sanders.

Other world premieres include Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen's Coal Country, a retelling of the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that claimed 29 lives, drawn from first-person accounts of survivors and family members. Directed by Blank and featuring music by Steve Earle, the play is scheduled for Feb. 18-March 29, 2020.

Running March 17-April 26 in a production directed by Mark Wing-Davey is Mona Mansour's The Vagrant Trilogy, a three-part epic about the Palestinian struggle for home and identity; and poet-playwright Erika Dickerson-Despenza will premiere Cullud Wattah, about three generations of black women living through the water crisis in Flint, Mich., and layoffs at the General Motors engine plant. Candis C. Jones directs.

The Public Theater currently is represented on Broadway with its blockbuster production of Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, which is nearing its fourth anniversary; and this summer will see the transfer of Sea Wall/A Life, the double bill of monologues by Simon Stephens and Nick Payne, starring Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal, respectively, which begins performances Aug. 8 at the Hudson Theatre.