The Alden Theatre in McLean, Virginia offered the Washington area last night some welcome relief from the relentless deep freeze outside in the form of the sizzling hot Broadway legend Chita Rivera. As any musical theater lover knows, the incomparable Ms. Rivera has had a long and celebrated career in Broadway musicals starting with a role as a principal dancer in Call Me Madam, becoming a big star as Anita in West Side Story, and soaring to even greater heights (and two Tony Awards) with starring roles in a number of wonderful shows like Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink, Chicago, Jerry’s Girls, Kiss of the Spider Woman and the recent revival of Nine. Notably, Ms. Rivera is about to star on the Great White way yet again in The Visit, another John Kander/Fred Ebb/Terrence McNally collaboration, an earlier incarnation of which was performed to great acclaim at Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA in 2008. Ms. Rivera indicated that rehearsals for that show, which will be opening in April, were starting this week.
In the delightful Chita: A Legendary Celebration, Ms. Rivera sang glorious songs, danced some of her suggestive moves and told charming stories from many of the shows in which she starred. She opened with a rousing version of “Lot of Livin’ To Do” from Bye Bye Birdie, a song that turned out to be prophetic about the singer/dancer’s life that would follow. “I’m from the Golden Age,” Ms. Rivera proudly stated, and then quoting an older patron, “It’s platinum, darling.”
Chita immediately demonstrated her legendary status, singing portions of “A Boy Like That” and a very humorous rendering of “America” from West Side Story. She followed with “Rhythm of Life,” a song from Sweet Charity, a show for which she led the National Tour and appeared in the film version with Shirley MacLaine.
After a couple of charming numbers, “Camille, Collette, Fifi” (a song from Seventh Heaven with three parts, all of which Chita sang in her hysterical rendering last night) and “Carousel” from Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, Ms. Rivera shared how she came to an incredible fruitful collaboration with John Kander and Fred Ebb, who both sought her out to star with Liza Minnelli in The Rink. She sang a series of songs from the many Kander and Ebb musicals in which she starred including “Where You Are” and ”Kiss of the Spider Woman” from Kiss of the Spider Woman, “I Don’t Remember You” from The Happy Time, “Chief, Cook, and Bottlewasher” from The Rink, “Love and Love Alone” from The Visit and a hysterical version of “Class” from Chicago. Reminiscing about playing Velma in the original Broadway production of Chicago alongside of Gwen Verdon’s Roxie, Chita ended her show on a high note, singing both roles in “Nowadays,” featuring a spot on impersonation of Verdon, and the iconic “All that Jazz,” a song that Ms. River remembered adoring from first hearing the well-known first few bars during a try-out rehearsal in Philadelphia.
Ms. Rivera showed the rapturous audience that after 60 years plus in musical theater and films, she still has it. Still looking incredible in a sexy slinky black dress, Chita sang, and dance and proved herself a marvelous storyteller, giving it all that she had. Ms. Rivera was accompanied by her outstanding group of musicians (referred to her as her family) that included Music Director Michael Croiter (also on percussion and guitar), Associate Music Director Michael Patrick Walker (also on piano), and bass player Jim Donica.
It is very exciting for to have the incomparable Chita Rivera star in a new Broadway show this spring, especially one that she recently performed in locally. All those that were lucky enough to catch her performance at the Alden Theatre last night can only be very grateful that Ms. Rivera stopped by the Washington area and put on a wonderful sizzling heat-generating show celebrating her glorious career, to date, before she takes on the Great White Way yet again.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, without an intermission.
Chita: A Legendary Celebration was performed on February 24, 2015 at the Alden Theatre at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, Virginia. For The Alden’s upcoming events, go to their events calendar Chita’s new Broadway show, The Visit, begins previews at the Lyceum Theatre in New York City on March 26, 2015 and opens on April 23, 2015.