The buzz around M. Night Shyamalan's comeback pet project, The Visit, is not overwhelming, but it is tangible. It is probably about a 4.0 on the Richter scale of Twitter. You can walk down the street and see it on the face of a child ghost. You may notice that your dog is acting kind of weird, like maybe it wants to watch Unbreakable again. If you listen, you can hear a blogger whispering "Shyamalanaissance."
The shamed auteur who burned himself down and is rising from the ashes on his own dime is a solid
marketing plan personal narrative, so I get it.
What I don't get is why we as a society — full of cultural omnivores! — would let a horror movie named The Visit come out in the same year as a pretty good Tony-nominated musical named The Visit without batting an eye.
You might say, "Hey Kaitlyn, get off your East Coast high horse; not everyone has the geographical privilege to frequent Broadway shows!" To that I would say, a 17 Again musical is being made due to, I guess, an educated belief that it will sell tickets, so clearly the rest of America is finding its way to New York City somehow.
You might say, "Hey Kaitlyn, that did not make you sound like less of an elitist really at all!" To which I would say, "Fetch me my bathing milk, butler."
Not only do The Visit and The Visit have the same title, they also have the same basic plot — old people are crazy! Kidding, but they are both about what may begin as a friendly visit can rapidly turn into something scary and then potentially murdery.
Nobody went to see The Visit (the musical), despite the fact that it was nominated for Best Musical. It's the last collaboration of Broadway greats John Kander and Fred Ebb (Chicago, Cabaret) and was probably the final lead role for the legendary Chita Rivera. In its opening week it grossed about a tenth of what The Lion King can gross in any old week, nearly two decades after its opening.
Sadness in chart form:
The press didn't care when The Visit opened, the press didn't care when it lost all the Tonys it was nominated for, and it kind of seemed like the press didn't even care when Chita's co-star died three days before the show closed.
Of the four musicals nominated for Best Musical this year, it wasn't the best (Fun Home was, and was honored as such), but it also wasn't the worst (guys, Something Rotten is bad, I'm sorry). The Visit (the musical) boasts a few excellent songs, a well-executed modern gothic aesthetic, and some topnotch performances.
You didn't go see The Visit (the musical) because it passed through popular consciousness like a ship in the night. It was too ‘80s Broadway — dark, moralizing, tangentially about Nazis — too oblivious to what currently sells tickets — movie stars, gigantic ensemble numbers, rapping about tax code — and nothing close to revolutionary.
In short, The Visit (the musical) was not 17 Again: The Musical.
You didn't go see it because no one told you to. This year you couldn't so much as spit without hitting a subway ad for Fun Home, an exuberant tweet about Hamilton, or a voicemail from your mom being all "OMG JENNIFER HUDSON IS GOING TO BE IN THE COLOR PURPLE AHHHHHHHHHHH." This year you couldn't so much as Google "The Visit" without all of the search results being about a movie called The Visit.
In short, The Visit (the musical) also lacked the
personal narrative marketing plan of The Visit (the movie).
In short, The Visit (the musical) is not going to be what is popularly known as "2015's The Visit."
Verge Video: Discussing The Visit with M. Night Shyamalan