BWW Review - CHITA RIVERA: MY BROADWAY Showcases a Legend
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by Nancy Grossman
Chita Rivera: My Broadway
Boston Youth Moves Producers’ Circle presents the Boston premiere, a one-night only performance to benefit Boston Youth Moves; Friday, May 4, 2012, at Citi Shubert Theatre.
Chita Rivera is a walking, singing, dancing icon of the Golden Age of Broadway musicals and an adoring audience had the pleasure of watching her perform the Boston premiere of Chita Rivera: My Broadway last night at Citi Shubert Theatre. Backed by a fabulous six-piece orchestra and the drumsticks of Music Director Michael Croiter, the two-time Tony Award winning legend strutted her stuff as part of the twelfth annual Swellegance Gala to benefit Boston Youth Moves, the dance training program for Greater Boston teenagers founded in 1990 by Jeannette Neill and Jim Viera.
Things got off to a lively start with the musicians playing “Mambo” from West Side Story, the 1957 Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim/Jerome Robbins groundbreaking musical that propelled Rivera to stardom. Her opening medley of “I Won’t Dance/Let Me Sing and I’m Happy” foreshadowed the fact that My Broadway is more vocal than terpsichorean, but the woman really can’t help moving artistically even when standing behind the microphone. As she says, “My life is rhythm,” and illustrates that as much with a shrug of her shoulder or a bump of her hip as she does with a snippet of Bob Fosse’s famous choreography in “Nowadays” and “All That Jazz” from Chicago.
With a career spanning six decades, there are too many shows to be able to include something from each, but WSS, Bye, Bye Birdie, and the Kander and Ebb canon are de rigueur. Anita’s tour de force numbers “A Boy Like That” and “America” give Rivera the chance to combine a dramatic vocal with some Latin dance steps that show she still has it. She touts her leading men, among them Antonio Banderas (Nine) and, her favorite, Dick Van Dyke (Birdie), before singing a medley of B, B B tunes. If she has lost some ability to sustain notes, she makes up for it with sheer talent and showmanship. Rivera sells each song by emoting, with finesse and eyes full of life.
Chita Rivera: My Broadway is designed to convey an intimacy between the artist and the audience as she regales us with stories about her career. Rivera gives credit to her dear friends John Kander and the late Fred Ebb, without whom “I wouldn’t be standing here,” before her heartfelt rendition of “I Don’t Remember You” from The Happy Time, a pair from her Tony Award-winning role in their Kiss of the Spiderwoman (which, she wryly pointed out, preceded the star-crossed Spiderman), “Love and Love Alone” (The Visit written for her), and “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” from The Rink which earned Rivera her first Tony Award.
Following her mini-tribute to Fosse and Gwen Verdon, complete with top hat and cane, Rivera was joined onstage by a baker’s dozen Boston Youth Moves dancers showing their best jazz moves to the familiar Chicago vamp. As an honorary member of the BYM Board of Directors and long-time friend of Jeannette Neill, Rivera makes it obvious that these dancers and this cause are near and dear to her heart. At the beginning of the evening, she proclaimed, “Brilliant training makes brilliant dancers, and brilliant dancers make a brilliant future.” After a lifetime of proving her point, all that was left for her to say was “Keep dancing!”
The mission of Boston Youth Moves is to encourage young people, through training in the art of dance, to explore their limitless potential for artistic expression and to realize personal success.