Featuring more than a dozen classic Freddie Mercury and Queen songs, over 20 dancers, a squad of Chicago Spirit Brigade cheerleaders and more, Chicago Tap Theatre mounted its largest staging yet, a two hour tribute featuring the songs of Queen, for a one night only celebration during the final weekend of Pride month in Chicago. Surrendering to the camptastic good time, there was a little something for everyone to enjoy. The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus belted out “Somebody to Love,” guest performance artist, hipster bicyclist, Matt Roben did rambunctious two-wheeling tricks to the tune of “Bicycle” and a triumphant “Bohemian Rhapsody” featuring the Lakeside Pride Freedom Marching Band, closed the show. This world premiere, one night only gem was the brainchild conceived by Tap’s Artistic Director, Mark Yonally and Music Director Kurt Schweitz. With ambitious choreography assembled from multiple choreographers and special guests, here is hoping Chicago Tap Theatre inaugural Pride showcase becomes an annual mounted Windy City tradition.
Starting with a dazzling array of rainbow colored lights and laser beams, as well as the swell of the “Flash Gordon” theme song, the show opened to a chorus line of a half dozen tappers, back lit, adorned in brightly colored costumes all designed by Emma Cullimore. Intermixed with the familiar ball changes and buffalo steps of traditional tap dancing, pelvic thrusts and hip grinds, establishing early on, this show is not your Grandmother’s tap. Lifted high above the troupe, host Mattrick Swayze, a lithe dancer and choreographer in his own right, sporting skin tight leggings and 6 inch stilettos! After the opening number, Swayze entertained with a series of comical double entendres to appeal to this largely gay and primarily adult audience. “Tap it up, flip it, & rub it down” Swayze jested as he playfully and repeatedly spanked his spandex covered backside, as the applause from the audience flowed while “straight ally love washes all over me.” It was at this point the woman sitting next to me leaned over to her teenaged daughter and loudly whispered “Don’t tell your father any of the jokes you’ve heard here tonight.” Oh, the things you overhear while seated on the isle of the third row.
Mark Yonally’s regular company of dancers including Aimee Chase, Kirsten Uttich, Jennifer Pfaff Yonally and Isaac Stauffer appeared to be having as much fun center stage as the audience did while watching them. “Under Pressure” and “Nerdy Language” were whimsical delights. Yonally’s improvisational act two dancing soliloquy to “Another One Bites The Dust” was quite rousing. The ladies also had their own opportunity to rock out, perched on the top of speakers, while tapping and thrashing to “Stone Cold Crazy.” Next, garbed in black, yellow and white, like feverishly tapping worker bees, the most ambitious ariel tap to “Killer Queen” with equipment borrowed from C5. The ariel didn’t lift that high, as it is essential for the foot to come in contact to the ground to create the clicking tap sounds, but I give them kudos for trying something new. The core crew reassembled in its entirety during the mash-up “Don’t Stop Me Now/We Will Rock You.”
While the tenacious tappers were switching costumes off stage, Swayze and his back-up Swayzettes, Brian and Christopher, entertained with a sexy, three man bump and grind, to the titillated cat calls of the enthused audience. Clearly inspired by YouTube sensation and Britain’s Got Talent finalist dancer Yanis Marshall’s fierce and outrageously sultry choreography, the tantalizing trio, all clad in gravity defying heels and tiny booty shorts to tease the audience with their finest assests, pardon the pun, amused both the crowd and themselves. Chicago Tap pro Isaac Stauffer even joined in with their platform heeled routine, a butt slapping, high kicking, Sweet Charity “Big Spender” influenced ballet bar number set to the tune of “Fat Bottomed Girls.” The four tempting, remarkably flexible, and chiseled men displayed nothing of “fat” but clearly enjoyed spanking their “bottom” during this routine. Later, the Swayzettes entertainment with a three minute rap-riff to the Vanilla Ice song, “Ice-Ice Baby” while wearing little overalls and hot pink fishnets, then displayed “caftan realness” while Swayze wore a tunic assembled from two Pride Flags.
Not to be outdone, three drag queens also joined the proceedings. The aptly named Amber Valentine, Belmont Red and Velveeta Velour mostly strutted and posed for comic relief, while sets were being tweaked behind the closed curtains. Kurt Schweitz’s musical arrangements stayed true to Queen’s original vision while not drowning out the essential tappity-tap-tap of the dancer’s feet. Nick Davio’s vocals were a smooth sounding delight. Jimmy Jagos set design and Dustin Derry’s dazzling lighting design the largest and most impressive to date for Chicago Tap. With more then 70 people on stage during the finale’s curtain call, Chicago Tap Theatre has a lot to be proud of. A highly entertaining and engaging enterprise, ranging from intimate to outrageous, I will state again my most emphatic plea this concept becomes an annual tradition.
We Will Tap You A Celebration of the Music of Queen played at the Athenaeum Theatre June 25, 2015
Celebrating Street Dance and 50 Years of Hip-Hop Wednesdays in July
The 2023 Chita Rivera Awards: The Red Carpet
The 2023 Chita Rivera Awards were presented at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts.
The winners were announced and in keeping with the mission of the Chita Rivera Awards, nominators considered outstanding choreography, featured dancers, and ensembles in shows on Broadway and Off Broadway, as well as outstanding choreography in film that opened during the 2022-2023 season.
The mission of the Chita Rivera Awards is to celebrate dance and choreographic excellence, preserve notable dance history, recognize past, present and future talents, while promoting high standards in dance education and investing in the next generation.
To see the winners and the interviews click here.
The 2023 Chita Rivera Awards: The Interviews
The winners for the 2023 Chita Rivera Awards were announced this evening. In keeping with the mission of the Chita Rivera Awards, nominators considered outstanding choreography, featured dancers, and ensembles in shows on Broadway and Off Broadway, as well as outstanding choreography in film that opened during the 2022-2023 season.
Presented at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place off Washington Square Park), the Chita Rivera Awards are produced by Joe Lanteri, Founder and Executive Director of the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation Inc., in conjunction with Patricia Watt. The Awards were fabulously hosted by Funny Girl’s Jared Grimes.
The mission of the Chita Rivera Awards is to celebrate dance and choreographic excellence, preserve notable dance history, recognize past, present, and future talents, while promoting high standards in dance education and investing in the next generation.
At this year’s Chita Rivera Awards, John Kander received the Lifetime Achievement Award, BroadwayHD, founded by Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane, received the Ambassadors For The Arts Award, and Jeffrey L. Page received the Douglas and Ethel Watt Critics’ Choice Award.
For the first time, the Outstanding Dancer in a Broadway Show category is gender-free. This category has twice as many nominees as the former gendered categories.
The NYC Dance Alliance Foundation College Scholarship Program was the beneficiary of the event. Since the inception of the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation, 4 million dollars have been awarded to over 400 dancers represented in 42 of the most prestigious college dance programs in the country.
And the winners are:
OUTSTANDING CHOREOGRAPHY IN A BROADWAY SHOW: Steven Hoggett, A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical
This was completely odd considering this was not nominated for the Tony’s, OCC’s or the Drama Desk. Maybe Hoggett was nominated and won for his combined choreography for Sweeney Todd.
OUTSTANDING DANCER IN A BROADWAY SHOW: Robyn Hurder, A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical, Jess LeProtto, A Beautiful Noise: The Neil Diamond Musical and Mattie Love, Bob Fosse’s Dancin’
One seriously wonders what went wrong in this category when Kolton Krouse, of Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ gave one of the best dance performances of the season.
OUTSTANDING ENSEMBLE IN A BROADWAY SHOW: Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ and New York, New York
OFF BROADWAY SPECIAL RECOGNITIONS
The Awarding Committee of the 2023 Chita Rivera Awards will celebrate excellence in Off-Broadway musical theater by presenting these special awards.
Outstanding Dancers in an Off-Broadway Show: Gaby Diaz, Only Gold and Ryan Steele, Only Gold
Outstanding Choreography in an Off-Broadway Show: Andy Blankenbuehler, Only Gold
CHOREOGRAPHY IN FILM: 13: The Musical, Choreographer: Jamal Sims
OUTSTANDING DIRECTION OF A DOCUMENTARY RELEASE: Everybody Dance, Director: Dan Watt
Moonage Daydream, Director: Brett Morgen
2023 CHITA RIVERA AWARDS NOMINATING COMMITTEES
Awarding Committee: Chair: Sylviane Gold, Gary Chryst, Robert LaFosse, Donna McKechnie, Wendy Perron, and Lee Roy Reams
Broadway Nominating Committee: Chair: Wendy Federman, Melinda Atwood, Caitlin Carter, Gary Chryst, Don Correia, Jamie deRoy, Sandy Duncan, Peter Filichia, Dr. Louis Galli, Sylviane Gold, Jonathan Herzog, Jim Kierstead, Robert La Fosse, Joe Lanteri, Donna McKechnie, Michael Milton, Mary Beth O’Connor, Wendy Perron, Lee Roy Reams, Andy Sandberg, and Randy Skinner
Film Nominating Committee: Chair: Jonathan C. Herzog, Steven Caras, Wilhelmina Frankfurt, Mary Beth O’Connor, and Andy Sandberg
A theatrical icon and one of Broadway’s greatest triple-threat talents, Chita Rivera is one of the most nominated performers in Tony Award history having earned 10 nominations, won twice and received the 2018 Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. A versatile actress/singer/dancer, her most recent starring roles include The Visit, the final John Kander/Fred Ebb/Terrence McNally musical directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele on Broadway; the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood; the Broadway and touring productions of The Dancer’s Life, a dazzling musical celebrating her spectacular career, written by Terrence McNally and directed by Graciela Daniele and the revival of the Broadway musical Nine with Antonio Banderas. She trained as a ballerina (from age nine) before receiving a scholarship to the School of American Ballet from the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. Chita’s first appearance (age 19) was as a principal dancer in Call Me Madam. Her electric performance as Anita in the original Broadway premiere of West Side Story brought her stardom, which she repeated in London. Her career is highlighted by starring roles in Bye, Bye Birdie, The Rink (Tony Award), Chicago, Jerry’s Girls, Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony Award), and the original Broadway casts of Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Seventh Heaven and Mr. Wonderful. On tour: Born Yesterday, The Rose Tattoo, Call Me Madam, Threepenny Opera, Sweet Charity, Kiss Me Kate, Zorba, Can-Can with The Rockettes. Chita was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009 and received the coveted Kennedy Center Honor in 2002. In 2019, Chita performed her solo concert at London’s Cadogan Hall; in 2018 she was honored as a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy; in 2016 she headlined at Carnegie Hall and in 2015, Great Performances aired their special Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ To Do, a retrospective of her extraordinary life and career nationally on PBS. Her current solo CD is entitled “And Now I Swing.” Her long-awaited book CHITA: A MEMOIR was published by HarperOne in April, 2023. Her most treasured production is her daughter, singer/dancer/choreographer Lisa Mordente.
The NYC Dance Alliance Foundation, Inc. (NYCDAF), founded in 2010 by Executive Director Joe Lanteri, is committed to broadening performing arts awareness while advocating education and high standards of excellence in dance. The Foundation invests in the next generation of professional performers by offering scholarships for secondary and college education. To date, over 400 talented teenagers have shared in nearly $4 million awarded directly through NYCDAF. Those recipients are represented in 42 of the most prestigious university arts programs in the country. Many have since graduated and are now represented on Broadway, as well as concert dance companies based in NYC and around the world. www.NYCDAFoundation.net
Broadway Up Close(R) Dance Workshop
A fun way to get active, learn and have fun: InterContinental New York Times Square has partnered with Broadway Up Close to provide monthly dance workshops. The new series offers the opportunity to learn choreography with current Broadway professionals, and to join them in conversation about their Broadway careers.
Sunday, May 13, 2023 – Broadway Performer Thayne Jasperson (Hamilton, Newsies, Matilda)
All classes are scheduled from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm and include 60 minutes of dance class and 30 minutes to learn and connect.
Following the class, an à la carte lunch menu is provided at The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen for an additional cost; perfect timing for a matinee performance.
You Are There At The 2023 Chita Rivera Awards Nominees Reception
At Bond 45 (221 W. 46th Street), the 2023 Chita Rivera Awards Nominees Reception, celebrating this year’s Chita Rivera Awards Nominees was held. Broadway legend Chita Rivera Awards Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient John Kander, and the Ambassador For The Arts Award Recipient BroadwayHD, founded by Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane.
Carrying the name of one of the great dance icons of the American musical theater, the Chita Rivera Awards celebrate dance and choreographic excellence past, present and future. The mission of the awards is to honor the superb achievements of the nominees, and also to recognize the talent and passion of all theatrical choreographers and dancers. Additionally, through education and scholarships, the awards nurture future generations and preserve notable dance history.
Nominators consider outstanding choreography, featured dancers and ensembles in Broadway and Off Broadway shows, as well as outstanding choreography in film during the theatrical season. The Off Broadway and Film committees make nominations and name winners in those categories. Broadway nominees are designated by the Broadway nominating committee and winners selected by the Broadway awarding committee.
The 2023 Chita Rivera Awards, hosted by Jared Grimes (Funny Girl), will be presented on May 22nd at 7:30pm at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts (566 LaGuardia Place off Washington Square Park), and produced by Joe Lanteri, Founder and Executive Director of the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation, Inc. in conjunction with Patricia Watt.
Tickets to the Chita Rivera Awards are available to the general public atwww.ChitaRiveraAwards.com.
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