Last night Two-time Tony winner Chita Rivera’s Carnegie Hall debut, was filled with standing ovations, as one was struck with the exuberance of energy that passed through this icon of musical theatre. According to the shows producer Daniel Nardicio, “I think it’s time to give the lady her due,” and the audience throughly agreed.
Holding court at 83, Ms. Rivera put 20-year-olds to shame, as she sang and danced with heart and soul. Sharing insight, Chita led us through her remarkable career that started on Broadway more than 60 years ago. For 90-minutes all of the show stopping numbers, as well as some song from other gerdra’s delighted those who were thrilled to see her. West Side Story, Birdie, Sweet Charity, Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Rink and Chicago were all represented. With Andy Karl (Rocky and the soon to be seen Groundhog Day) the Bye Bye Birdie segment featured “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” and the romantic ballad “Rosie.” Interesting a lot of the songs added were not songs from the show Ms. Rivera originally sang.
Alan Cumming joined Chita for the title song of the show “Nowadays” Chicago” and “The Apple Doesn’t Fall (Very Far from the Tree” from The Rink. Also from The Rink came “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer,” and “All That Jazz,” from Chicago
Javier Munoz, the current star of Hamilton, brought a rap version of “America” to life and I wonder what composer Leonard Bernstein would have thought. Also from West Side Story we got “America,” “A Boy Like That” and a touching “Somewhere,” lead by the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus that brought tears and hope.
Complete with the yellow shoes Matthew Deming, Chris Newcomer and James Harms brought “I Would Never Leave You” back to life as Chita sang the haunting “Love and Love Alone” from The Visit.
From Sweet Charity “Where Am I Going?” and “Something Better Than This.” And there was a medley Kiss of the Spider Woman, including the title song.
The highlights were when Itzhak Perlman exquisitely played as Chita took flight in Jacques Brel’s “Carousel.” The stage was transformed with lights, sound as along with Chita’s body combined to make a whirling carnival ride.
James Taylor’s “Secret of Life” took on a rock beat with Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist Steven Van Zandt. In working with Van Zandt she also got to work with a “Soprano’s,” which Chita confessed was one of her loves.
Though the show was exciting it was like watching a nightclub act at Feinstein’s/ 54 Below, Birdland, Cafe Carlyle or her Broadway show A Dancer’s Life with music director Michael Croiter leading a 15-piece band.
Chita Rivera is happiness personified and the joy she feels in performing takes you out your troubles to a place of joie de vie. She is generous and connects to her audience and we left knowing that the night was a special evening few have a chance to experience.
Chita: Nowadays: Carnegie Hall one night only November 7th.