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LaCageFans: CHITA RIVERA: THE DANCERS LIFE Review

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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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CHITA RIVERA: THE DANCERS LIFE Review

What happens when you have a Broadway Legend team up with one of the most prolific playwrights, incomparable choreographers, and thought provoking composing teams of this day and age? The answer should be one of the most magnificent shows to hit Broadway in years. Instead, what happens in "Chita Rivera: The Dancers Life," is one of the most inexcusable forms of theatre mediocrity to date. Now playing nightly at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre (formerly the Plymouth); the Great White Way welcomes back a daring diva in the form of Chita Rivera and the story of her life told, of course, as only she can through song and dance.

Chita is certainly up to task, although her voice may not be what it once was - one sees she may have a star turn or two left in her taught physique. Graciela Daniele, of "Ragtime" fame, understands her job as Director/Choreographer and executes it with precise aplomb as she and her astounding chorus of ten tell the tale beautifully through dance. The unbelievably touching "Choreographers" sequence when Ms. Rivera talks about the likes of Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Gower Champion, et.al. is a convincing and passionate retrospective of movement. If only the rest of the story could be told with such ease and finesse! Terrence McNally, who has won multiple awards for his work on such shows as "Love! Valour! Compassion!" "Ragtime," and "Frankie and Johnny at the Clair de Lune" not only comes up short, but never quite reaches the epitome of the ravishing star. Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who have also won a place as composing greats for their scores of "Ragtime," "Once On the Island," and "Seussical" take an obvious turn for the worse here, when the new pieces they threw together can not even hold a candle to the mundane Strouse/Adams score from "Bye Bye Birdie" that Rivera delivers like a pro.

The fact is, Rivera is such a pro she delivers even the most sophomoric moments with style and grace. Unfortunately, the evening is filled with so many of these undergraduate stylings, that not even this decorated, well versed, and educated veteran can make a singular moment of this show peak with complete and utter perfection. Yes, the "Nowadays" Act I closer where Ms. Rivera dances onstage alone with a spotlight, imagining it to be the late, great Gwen Verdon is touching...but ultimately lacks the build up, back story, and power punch one would hope from such a somewhat daring moment. That said, Act II is particularly stronger than the unfortunate start. "Dancing on the Kitchen Table," a new tune by Ahrens & Flaherty, should not only be cut from the show, but lost and destroyed as soon as humanly possible. Not only does it start the show off on the wrong foot, but is more forgettable than Liana Ortiz's missteps as Young Chita.

The fact that so many missteps indeed do abound is a true shame and extremely unfortunate. It is obvious that when the material is strong, Chita and her trusted confidant Graciela Daniele deliver in spades. "Big Spender," "Rosie," "Class," Somewhere," "Kiss of The Spider Woman," and a rousing "All that Jazz" are all beautifully nuanced and strongly executed moments. But without the tightly woven exposition, these strong moments become a passing glance into the life of this theatre legend. If one were not to have previously known a lick about Ms. Rivera's famed career, (they should be taken out and hung from that Crystal Ball a top of Times Square) they certainly may have a very hard time becoming interested or even following this muddled retrospective. But when all is said and done, this is not just about any Dancers Life...it is about that of a professional, a grande dame, a gypsy who has become a true Broadway Baby. That devotion and motivation shines through in spades and if Ms. Rivera does her job right, (and she does indeed) many a more dancers lives will be affected by her work here.
Updated On: 11/28/05 at 09:31 PM
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DottieD'Luscia
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I totally agree. I haven't had the time to write a review of what I saw last week, but I was very disappointed. Chita deserves much better material than she was given.

Isn't there another show that Diedre Goodwin could appear in? I thought her talents were wasted in this show.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
Yankeefan007
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Agree/Disagree

Agree that it's one of the most inexcusable forms of medicority. It's an absolutely dreadful book. Chita, who is still alive and high kicking, would have been MUCH better off forming the book herself, rather than leaving it to Terrence McNally and Patrick Pacheco, of Showpeople Magazine, who is credited with 'biographical research.'

I think that Dancing on the Kitchen Table is one of the most rousing numbers in the show. It is also one of the only complete songs in the show. Everything else, from Garbage to Nowadays is done in snippets.

Great review. If you search for mine, you can see that I respectfully agree.
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ljay889
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Well I've heard for the real big Gwen fans, the Act 1 Finale is really appreciated, and a touching moment.

So I can't wait for it.
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WiCkEDrOcKS
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Wonderful review, as usual, LaCageFan.
Current Avatar: Cynthia Erivo, bringing down the house in The Color Purple.
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SPOILERS:

I saw it twice in San Diego and I could not believe my Chita was given these trite lines to recite by Mr. McNally.

And please get that little girl out of Chit's way during "All That Jazz!" This is Chita's moment.

I do think that "Dancing on the Kitchen Table" is an electric number and it is executed to it's full potential. Her rendition of Secret O' Life is very moving as is the segment called "A Woman the World Has Never Seen."
Updated On: 11/29/05 at 05:09 AM
mlsheehan
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Fan2,
Nice review. I have to agree. I posted my thoughts after seeing the show in San Diego with many of the same thoughts.

I was hoping they might make some changes for New York, but everything that I've read leads me to believe they thought it was fine in San Diego. I guess they feel it's enough to send out Chita for 2 hours, and everyone will be wowed. Well, I'm hear to say it isn't enough when you have such mediocre material. Chita is terrific and for those that have never seen her (and big fans of her's) it might be enough. Most people want more entertainment value for their $75-100. I've seen other one person shows that delivered in spades. This one sadly doesn't.

Producers, if you are reading, this please fix the show!
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Menken Fan
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I mostly agree with this feedback on the show. I saw it a few days ago, and it really left me disappointed. Those expecting a dance show will be disappointed with only a few dance snippets from Chita, with most dancing done by the fantastic and wasted ensemble. Those expecting Chita performing her classic showtunes will be disappointed with mostly abbreviated versions. My favorites "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" and "Where You Are" were chopped to a verse or two. Those expecting to learn more about Chita's life will be disappointed with the very brief references to anything related to her life. She briefly mentions her relationship with Sammy Davis Jr. and her potentially career-ending car accident, but never gets into any further detail. As for the other men in her life, she mentions some first names and says "You know who you are". Well, I'd like to know who they are. Give us a little something, Chita. On the way out of the theatre, I was given a button that said "I just saw Chita". That's about all I can say I got from the show - the chance to again see a theatre legend live. I guess that's something.
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Luscious
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That's too bad. I'm seeing the show on Saturday, but after reading these reviews, I'm thinking of selling my tickets. What a major disappointment. re: LaCageFans: CHITA RIVERA: THE DANCERS LIFE Review
"One Man's Turd is Another Man's Treasure"
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BroadwayBaby6
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I saw the show in San Diego and it sounds like very few changes have been made. I couldn't agree more with the review. Chita is wonderful but the show is a disaster.
"It does what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world. And it gives you a little tune to carry in your head. Something to take you away from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you're feeling blue. You know?"
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DottieD'Luscia
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What was with that opening montage of dancer's warming up (which seemed to last forever)?!?! They should start off by cutting that completely.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
mlsheehan
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I don't know it changed in New York, but in San Diego that was a pre-curtain exercise with the house lights on. It gave you something to watch while you chatted with friends before the show. It really wasn't part of the show.

I've seen other shows that have done this, so for me it wasn't a problem. My only complaint was that you think, "Wow, I'm going to see some great dancing tonight!" while you watch them warm up. And then, you don't really see anything that special.

Oh well, another missed opportunity.

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BroadwayBaby6
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The talented ensemble is completely wasted. The new Flaherty and Ahrens songs are mediocre. Instead of "greatest hits" we get snippets of those hits. There are no sparks and no fireworks in this show.

Graciela Daniele was the completely wrong choice to direct this show. They need to call Tommy Tune or Jerry Mitchell to come and fix this show now...
"It does what a musical is supposed to do; it takes you to another world. And it gives you a little tune to carry in your head. Something to take you away from the dreary horrors of the real world. A little something for when you're feeling blue. You know?"
Yankeefan007
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Yeah, the opening was totally awful, and should be cut immediately. Nobody actually knew what was going on until the lights went down.
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Pippin
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to those who have seen the show: I have never seen Ms. Rivera perform live, and would love the chance to see her before she plays her last show on the great white way. is the chance to see her live and in person worth the admission price alone, given the poor reviews of the structure of the show? any opinions would be greatly appreciated.
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DottieD'Luscia
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This show is in desperate need of a show doctor. Start off by getting Chita a more flattering costume. Get rid of the opening montage, that ridiculous "dancing on the table" number, the audition sequence...better yet, scrap the whole thing and start from scratch.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
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WithoutATrace
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i totally agree. this show would be SO MUCH BETTER if Chita was on the stage by herself talking about her life as a dancer. she also needs to sing entire songs instead of short clips of songs. my god this show could have been amazing! i am so upset.
Updated On: 11/29/05 at 02:49 PM
Yankeefan007
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She needs to write the show herself.
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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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Thank you all for your kind words about my review...I REALLY wished my review could have been more positive, but after I reread it - I still think I was too nice. Chita deserves better than mediocre. Its obviouos during the course of the evening that its not her fault.
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DottieD'Luscia
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LaCage Fan, your review was well written and well thought out. As I sat in the theatre last Wednesday night, "mediocre" is the adjective that kept running through me head during the course of the show.
Hey Dottie! Did your colleagues enjoy the cake even though your cat decided to sit on it? ~GuyfromGermany
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Luscious
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Did it ever occur to anyone that the reason you get "snippets" of songs and dance numbers is because, as difficult as it is to admit and accept, Ms. Rivera may just not be up to performing them in their entirity for seven shows a week? She is 72, after all. As for the book, I'm very surprised that Terrance McNally didn't deliver the goods. But if anyone's interested in two 5th Row Orchestra seats (on the aisle) for this Saturday evenings peformance, PM me. I'll sell them to you for just below cost ($200.00).



"One Man's Turd is Another Man's Treasure"
Updated On: 11/29/05 at 04:00 PM