Chita Rivera

| May 16, 2017

Chita Rivera

Café Carlyle, NYC, May 9, 2017

Reviewed by Elizabeth Ahlfors for Cabaret Scenes

Chita Rivera
Photo: David Andrako

Like her opening song from Bye Bye Birdie, Chita Rivera has “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” (Charles Strouse and Lee Adams) and she’s still at it—singing, shimmying, and shaking at the Café Carlyle. Sparkling in black sequins, flashing her open smile, strutting across the small stage and embracing her audience, she proves she is the incandescent Broadway Baby. “When you move, your body and your spirit get to know each other.”

Rivera, who appeared two years ago on Broadway in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s The Visit, dedicated two of the show’s ballads, “Winter” and “Love and Love Alone,” to her co-star, the late Roger Rees. In a wealth of casual anecdotes, she recalls her half-century-plus Broadway career, reflecting the good fortune, legendary friends, and memorable songs that have let her musical talent shine. “I get great phone calls,” she quips, like those from Leonard Bernstein that eventually led to her role as Anita in West Side Story. Rivera had already performed in the chorus of shows like Guys and Dolls and Can-Can, but playing Anita she was on a rocket ship to stardom.

Remembering the early days, she performed all three parts in “Camille, Collette, Fifi” from Stella Unger and Victor Young’s score to Seventh Heaven, and painted a Mardi Gras madness in the theatrically rousing “Carousel” by Jacques Brel.

It was another phone call that led to an exemplary partnership and she reprised the Kander and Ebb songs she owns: a medley from Kiss of the Spider Woman;“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” from her Tony Award-winning role as Liza Minnelli’s character’s mother in The Rink; and, delivering classics from Chicago —“Nowadays” and “All That Jazz” — Rivera is still the refreshing dynamo from the top of the show, all non-stop motion. Although her voice is ragged, it is secure enough to delve into the heart of a song and allow her to reach its soul. She is a one-woman duo in “Nowadays,” singing Velma’s part, and adding a loving impersonation of Gwen Verdon as Roxie.

With a flavorful band led by Musical Director Michael Croiter on guitar and percussion, pianist Jason Loffredo, Jim Donica on bass, and Dan Willis on reeds, Chita Rivera is the spirit of Broadway in the intimate Café Carlyle.

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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