81-year old entertainer extraordinaire Chita Rivera, whose mantra is “Age is nothing, love is everything,” demonstrated that longevity does not necessarily mean loss of vitality Thursday during “Chita: A Legendary Celebration.” A concert to benefit the Actors Theatre of Indiana, the event was held at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts, which is also the home of ACI, an professional Equity theater.
The two-time Tony award winning actor/singer/dancer, who is best known for her roles in “West Side Story,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Chicago,” “The Rink” and many more, regaled an adoring crowd as she sang her signature songs from Broadway hits in which she starred throughout her career. Looking trim and dressed in a black flapper-style dress, Rivera exhibited a warm sense of humor as she introduced each song with stories and background information regarding the famous composers, directors and performers she worked with.
Rivera, of course, is not the singer and dancer she once was but unlike other older performers who refuse to acknowledge their physical limitations, she used hers to her advantage—causing her performance to look effortless as she displayed her prowess as a seasoned performer and the master show woman she is. Also notable was Rivera’s high energy throughout the show which never wavered. It equaled that of someone half her age.
“A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” from “Bye Bye Birdie,” the 1960 Broadway musical in which she co-starred with Dick Van Dyke, was Rivera’s opening number. The song set the tone for the concert and her emphasis on maintaining a youthful attitude.
Highlights from Rivera’s concert included “A Boy Like That” and “America” from “West Story,” for which she originated the role of Anita in the original 1957 stage musical; “Where Am I Going?” from “Sweet Charity”; and “Camille, Collette, Fifi” from “Seventh Heaven.”
“Carousel,” from “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris,” was Rivera’s most striking performance of the evening. With its frenetic pace which builds to a crescendo before ending abruptly, the song’s lyrics flew off Rivera’s tongue in a masterful interpretation of one of Brel’s (known for the dark subject matter of his songs) most ingenious songs. Rivera’s rare gifts as an actor were also vividly on display when she sang this song as well all the others in her program during which she recreated all the roles she played in the various shows represented.
Rivera dedicated the second half of her 90-minute concert to John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriting team which she credits for much of her success on Broadway. Included in this part of the program were songs from “Kiss of the Spiderwoman” for which she won her second Tony Award; “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” from the “The Rink,” in which she co-starred with Liza Minnelli and for which she won her first Tony; and “Nowadays,” in which she delighted the audience with a spot-on impression of her co-star Gwen Verdon, as well as “All That Jazz” from the original 1975 Broadway production of “Chicago”.
One of the few downbeat songs in the concert sung by Rivera was the dramatic “Love and Love Alone” from “The Visit,” a musical with a story of greed and revenge by Kander and Ebb with book by Terrence McNally in which she appeared this summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. Rivera indicated that it is hoped the show will eventually find itself on Broadway.
Throughout the concert, Rivera acknowledged how grateful she is for all the blessings she has received throughout her storied career. She also thanked her family, especially her daughter Lisa Mordente and all the friends who she said sustain her, and who she paid tribute to during “Circle of Friends,” her encore song.
For tickets and information about the 2014-2015 Actors Theatre of Indiana season visit actorstheatereofindiana.org.
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