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Rita Moreno

| April 24, 2017

Rita Moreno

Feinstein’s at the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, April 21, 2017

Reviewed by Steve Murray for Cabaret Scenes

Rita Moreno
Photo: Mark Hill

One might think that Rita Moreno, at age 85, might rest on her laurels and live the easy life. She is one of the elite group of EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony); you can add on a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award, and the Library of Congress Living Legends Award. But resting is the last thing on Moreno’s mind these days. In addition to her live concert performances, she is busy hawking her bestselling book Rita Moreno: A Memoir, filming season two of her Netflix series One Day at a Time, and basking in the glow of her 2015 CD of Spanish favorites, Una Vez Más.

Looking radiant, Moreno launched into the perfect song for “women of a certain age,” Lee Adams and Charles Strouse’s “But Alive” from Applause, the musical based on the short story on which All About Eve had been based, Mary Orr’s “The Wisdom of Eve. Moreno, who made her Broadway debut at 13, owns this song like a well-worn glove, accentuating the performer’s thrill of being panicked, manic, somehow calm, and most definitely alive.

Amusing backstories and personal anecdotes pepper the between-song banter. An L.A. martini drinker, Moreno and her husband are blitzed on Napa wines when they casually agree to move to Berkeley. Her hillside home is the setting for “The Folks Who Live on the Hill,” a lovely romantic song by Kern and Hammerstein. Ary Barroso’s finger-snapping samba “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)” is a Moreno favorite, appearing on both her self-titled 2000 CD as well as in Spanish on Una Vez Más. Accompanied by the elegant Russ Kassoff on piano, Andrew Higgins on bass, and local fave David Rokeach on drums, Moreno shone on Jerry Herman’s poignant breakup song “I Won’t Send Roses” from Mack and Mabel.

Another humorous tale of her eight-year romance with Marlon Brando has her sing a few bars of Michel Legrand/Alan and Marilyn Bergman’s “The Way He Makes Me Feel.” A nice mashup of Irving Berlin’s “I Got Lost in His Arms” and the Mort Dixon/Billy Rose/Harry Warren hit “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store),” and David and Samantha Frishberg’s ditty “Blizzard of Lies” filled out the evening of reminiscences. She is genuinely grateful for all she’s created and the honors and acclaim she’s been rewarded. Now in her seventh decade of performing, being onstage, in a recording studio, or in front of the cameras is life-giving energy for the legendary Rita Moreno.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, Regional, San Francisco, San Francisco Cabaret Reviews

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Carmen Cusack

Her talent and charm radiated like a meteorite.

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