BWW Reviews: Chita Rivera: A Legendary Celebration Amazes Audiences
Dynamic talents, such as triple-threat Chita Rivera, rarely give up. They are having too much fun to retire. Passionate, warm, funny and forever loyal to her art, Miss Rivera has always captivated her audiences and is still very much doing so, based on her performance on Saturday January 25 at the Valley Performing Arts Center in Northridge. It was a stroll down memory lane, and a delicious one, as Rivera took the stage in Chita Rivera: A legendary Celebration with "I've Got a Lot of Living To Do" from Bye Bye Birdie and sang, moved vibrantly with rhythm and grace and told terrific stories about Leonard Benstein, Cy Coleman, and Kander & Ebb, among others.
At 81, Rivera naturally does not really dance as she used to, but her moves are sensual, intoxicating and riveting as she holds the audience in the palm of her hand, marching to the rhythm of life. And as far as humility and attaining self-confidence are concerned there's no finer example than when Rivera was told she'd be working with Gwen Verdon for the first time in Sweet Charity. "How can I fill those shoes?" she pondered. "Bring your own shoes!" was her conclusion, and she has passed that motto on to young performers ever since.
Backed by three glorious musicians music director Michael Croiter on percussion/guitar, Michael Patrick Walker at the piano and Jim Donica on bass, Rivera segued from Birdie into a delightful tale about meeting Bernstein for the first time in a frazzled state and then sang from West Side Story "A Boy Like That" and "America". Up next she told of a phone call she received from Cy Coleman - "I got a lot of phone calls" - and "Where Am I Going?" from Sweet Charity. Charity was not a "hooker" but a "dance hall hostess" but she did essay a hooker in Seventh Heaven "Camille, Collette, Fifi", to which she added every sensual body movement she could think of.
Other highlights of the 75-minute evening were a gorgeous "My Wish For You", from Kiss of the Spider Woman: "You Gotta Learn", "Sooner or Later" and "Let's Make Love", a beautiful lesser known Kander & Ebb song "I Don't Remember You" from And the World Goes Round, "Chief, Cook and Bottle Washer" from The Rink, and a dramatically vibrant "Carousel" from Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Of course, Chita Rivera could not leave out her brilliant Velma Kelly from Chicago, so she engrossed us with "Nowadays" and "All That Jazz" along with a cute story about Catherine Zeta Jones, who played her role in the movie and won an Oscar. In "Nowadays" she did Gwen Verdon's voice to perfection, and in her adorable way added "That's Gwen!". Verdon had danced along side her as Roxie Hart in Chicago and the two, it seemed, got along splendidly. Always a nice treat to hear positive things about two co-stars especially these two divas of Broadway! She also performed a thrilling "Love and Love Alone" from Kander & Ebb's last musical The Visit, which she is about to perform for the third time this year. She closed with a lovely "This Is a Song For My Circle of Friends".
This was indeed an evening to remember, filled with joy and mirth. It is plain to see that Chita Rivera is still a fun and classy performer, who believes in living to the max.. Long may she reign, this Queen of Broadway!
read the interview I did recently with this grande lady: