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All Eyes On: CHITA! CHITA! CHITA! and More CHITA! Don't Miss Tonight on PBS; Richard Jay-Alexander Weighs-In

Photo Credit: Joseph Sinnott

For those of us who love Theatre and the Performing Arts, PBS has been THE HOLY GRAIL, for as long as I can remember.

Tonight, you can see CHITA RIVERA: A Lot of Livin' to Do, a GREAT PERFORMANCES presentation, on PBS, at 9:00 P.M. (check your local listings).

It is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things I have ever seen in all my years of viewing. The words exciting, historic, magical, transformative, sizzling don't even BEGIN to cover this non-stop hour of thrills and stories from Chita, herself, as well as John Kander, Carol Lawrence, Dick Van Dyke and others, as tribute is paid to the legendary performer and her career is on full view.

I moved to New York in the Fall of 1975, (40 years ago), and Chita was starring, on Broadway, in Bob Fosse's original production of CHICAGO, alongside Gwen Verdon and Jerry Orbach. I remember it like it was yesterday. She was the first real star I got to meet and become friendly with because I was introduced to her by Gregg Fauss, who was her dresser and her lighting and tech guy, when she toured on the road with her ACT. We've known each other ever since and I have never missed any of her work onstage, right up to, and including, THE VISIT.

What you get to witness tonight, via this extraordinary show, is everything before that and leading up to ..... NOW!

Dick Van Dyke & Chita Rivera in Bye Bye Birdie.
Photo Credit: The New York Public Library

I found this show jaw-dropping! I knew a lot about Chita Rivera and her career, but the photos, the footage, the interviews that make up the story of this woman and this career are just astonishing. Forever a "gypsy" but ever the "star." A career truly unique and never to be equaled or achieved in modern times.

This television production is tidily built around a live performance at Jazz at Lincoln Center's Appel Room and happened in the very midst of a snowy Manhattan night, when all of Broadway and New York City were in preparation for a full shut-down, expecting one of the worst storms in the city's history. Well, inside, there was a storm of its own.

The editing on this program was fascinating to me, which made me want to reach out to the director, David Horn. David has done so much great work on PBS that he is somewhat of a legend in his own right and I wanted to talk to him and ask him so many question. He felt my response to the program was "perhaps a bit effusive," but I was really feeling it and just dove in.

Liza Minnelli & Chita Rivera in The Rink.
Photo Credit: Ken Howard

I thoroughly enjoyed our chat and his knowledge and history and the one thing that excites him most about tonight's airing is that "Chita loves the show." I wanted to know HOW it was decided to do this show and he credited the Programming Department with recognizing to honor this theatre great and Richard R. Schilling, the show's Producer. Also, for GREAT PERFOMANCES, Bill O'Donnell is the Producer.

The photos and video content were fascinating to me and some of the "surprises" in the editing (no SPOILERS here), one in particular, took my breath away. The show is endless in glorious information and I could have watched hours more, but this is so perfect and so satisfying ... Gee, maybe David Horn was right .... Am I being too effusive? Ha.

Chita Rivera is beloved in our community and in theatre and actor and singer and dancer "circles" but this is an amazing opportunity for all the public to learn about her and join those of us who are already at her altar, in awe.

Chita Rivera in 1955. Credit: Photofest

David Horn is clearly stricken by Chita's gifts and accomplishments, but also describes her as a real talent, unselfish, beloved, one of the easiest people in "the business," and a very real person, all of which made her a legend. He also loves that she never thought of herself as a singer and, of course, now, that voice is so recognizable to all of us .... like all the other one-named gals: Bernadette, Julie, Carol, Gwen, Barbra, Barbara, Judy, Liza, etc.

You need to watch this, as the footage will astonish you, from a time when audiences got exposed to Broadway and its stars, via television, and all those wonderful shows and TV Specials.


And... if you're not going to be home to tune-in, set the DVR!

Me? I plan on ordering a copy, to keep... FOREVER!

If you watch, please don't forget to tweet and hashtag: #ChitaPBS, @Chita_Rivera & @GPerfPBS

Chita and PBS will love it.

Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin' to Do is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET.

Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin' to Do was produced by Richard R. Schilling and directed by David Horn. For Great Performances, Bill O'Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Visit Great Performances Online at for additional information about this and other programs

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