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Don’t Miss: Chita Rivera at Carnegie Hall

September 23rd, 2016 Comments off

Chita Rivera at Carnegie HallJavier Muoz and Brandon Victor Dixon, the new stars of Hamilton on Broadway, and New York City Gay Men’s Chorus have joined the list of special guests at Chita Rivera’s landmark concert Chita: Nowadays at Carnegie Hall on Monday, November 7, 2016 at 8:00 p.m.

Presented by Daniel Nardicio, this event marks the first time the Broadway legend will headline the iconic venue. The two-time Tony Award winner will also welcome previously-announced guests Alan Cumming and Andy Karl, with others to be announced soon. Tickets are now on sale at www.ChitaInConcert.com.

Chita: Nowadayswhich features signature favorites, new selections and special collaborations with her guests, plus a very unique version of the West Side Story classic “America,” will be directed by Graciela Daniele with music director Michael Croiter leading a 15-piece band. Ms. Rivera commented, “Im absolutely thrilled to play one of the most prestigious venues in the world, Carnegie Hall. We’re going to have a ball!”

Chita Rivera, an accomplished and versatile actress/singer/dancer, has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and received eight additional Tony nominations for an exceptional 10 Tony nominations. She recently starred in The Visit, the final John Kander/Fred Ebb/Terrence McNally musical directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele on Broadway (2015), following the acclaimed production at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in the summer of 2014.

Rivera starred in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Broadway and touring productions of The Dancer’s Life, a dazzling new 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 11) before receiving a scholarship to the School of American Ballet from legendary George Balanchine. Chita’s first appearance (age 17) 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.

Rivera was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009. She received the coveted Kennedy Center Honor in 2002 and was the first Hispanic woman chosen to receive this award. In 2015, Great Performances aired their special Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ To Do, a retrospective on her extraordinary life and career nationally on PBS. Chita’s current solo CD is entitled And Now I Swing. Her most treasured production is her daughter, singer/dancer/choreographer Lisa Mordente.

Review: The Visit

April 23rd, 2015 Comments off
Chita Rivera and the cast of "The Visit" (photo: Thom Kaine via The Broadway Blog.)

Chita Rivera and the cast of “The Visit” (photo: Thom Kaine via The Broadway Blog.)

Death becomes her. Or not.

Chita Rivera returns to the stage in Kander and Ebb’s The Visit, a dismally depressing one-act musical adapted from the Swiss play by Friedrich Dürrenmattthat that tells the story of Claire Zachanassian, a wealthy self-proclaimed whore who returns to her destitute hometown to seek revenge on the man who broke her heart.

Chita Rivera in "The Visit" (photo: Thom Kaine via The Broadway Blog.)

Chita Rivera in “The Visit” (photo: Thom Kaine via The Broadway Blog.)

Originally presented at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in 2001, the show has seen several incarnations, the most recent being this version that ran at Williamstown Theatre Festival last summer, co-starring Roger Rees as Anton Schell, the ex-lover in question. Rees reprises his role opposite Rivera, and despite compelling performances from both; this is a show that should be laid to rest.

The Visit delivers some great theatrics: a crisp performance by Rivera, who sweeps into the action with an entourage of two white-faced eunuchs and her butler; Rees and family, which includes an interesting turn by Mary Beth Peil as his disenchanted wife Matilde; and an ensemble of Broadway regulars such as Jason Danieley and Elena Shaddow who invest full-throttle in a plot that goes nowhere.

They all tell the non-story of a bankrupt village faced with the decision to sacrifice one of their own to reap the benefits of Zachanassian’s spiteful revenge, for she has offered to bail out the town if Anton sacrifices his life. Various perspectives are revealed in stagnant flashbacks and present-day moral dilemmas—all set against an appropriately looming set designed by Scott Pask.

Kander and Ebb’s body of work, which dates back to 1965’s Flora the Red Menace starring Liza Minnelli and includes notable titles including Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman (also starring Chita Rivera) is often known for its accessibility and melodic structure. The Visit is more like a chamber piece, offering complex choral arrangements and rarely a string of notes that the audience can hold onto. While deftly executed, these aren’t show tunes you’ll be humming on your way to Sardi’s afterwards.

The cast of "The Visit" (photo: Thom Kaine via The Broadway Blog.)

The cast of “The Visit” (photo: Thom Kaine via The Broadway Blog.)

Directed with what has now become his signature stamp of ensemble shuffling, John Doyle maneuvers and manipulates the players with the help of choreographer Graciela Daniele. I’m not sure who decided that a coffin should be the one major prop, but after about 90 minutes of gloom and doom one wishes that the whole show could be sealed up and buried six feet under.

It’s a shame that this might be Rivera’s final major swan song to Broadway. Theatergoers will hopefully be lucky enough to have her visit the stage once again.

The Visit
Lyceum Theatre
149 West 45th Street
Open-ended run

What the other critics are saying:

“Kander just can’t help himself. Even in what may well be his darkest work, he writes beautiful romantic melodies. So there are some lovely moments in this show — specifically, those moments when love and forgiveness seem to stand a chance. Chita and Rees are captivating when they find themselves “In the Forest Again,” where they once made love. And Chita is breathtaking in “Love and Love Alone,” the gorgeous ballad for the pas de deux in which she dances with her own younger self. But taken in the context of the material, love and forgiveness don’t really stand a chance in the heart of a vengeful woman.” Variety

“A second-tier Kander and Ebb score is better than a lot of musical craftsmen’s best, which makes The Visit a welcome curiosity, even it’s sure to be a commercial challenge. Finally reaching Broadway after almost 15 years of false starts, the show arrives in a bewitchingly designed production from director John Doyle that magnifies its alluring qualities and masks some of its imperfections. It’s an arresting vehicle for the indomitable Chita Rivera, who has stuck with the project throughout its troubled history, and she remains a uniquely steely stage presence at 82 — graceful, dignified and commanding.” The Hollywood Reporter

The Visit isn’t for everyone. But Mr. Kander and his late, lamented partner never wrote a finer score, and if you find (as Somerset Maugham put it) that there isn’t much kick in the milk of human kindness, then you’ll thrill to their cruel tale of what men who dare to call themselves decent will do to one another if the price is right.” The Wall Street Journal

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”

November 14th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "The Mystery of Edwin Drood". Photo by Joan Marcus.

THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD

Rupert Holmes’s tongue-in-cheek, tongue-twisting, Tony-winning musical with an audience-voted ending (based on Charles Dicken’s unfinished novel of vengeful passions) gets a Broadway revival starring Chita Rivera, Stephanie J. Block and Will Chase.

“The machinations of the mystery plot dance in dizzying rhythmic counterpoint to the story framing the musical…even as [the cast of characters] bicker and mug and tell hoary jokes to cajole the audience into a state of happy delirium.”  New York Times

…for a show doing triple duty as musical, choose-your-own-ending mystery and time-travel device, Drood is jolly good fun.”  New York Post

“…all the affectionately antiquated whimsy never quite adds up to robust entertainment.”  The Hollywood Reporter

Drood, ultimately, is not a complete show so much as an expandable playspace, and with performers of this caliber, an evening of yeasty, nudge-nudge-wink-wink British good humor is more or less guaranteed.”  New York Magazine

Read more…

TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE: Fall Preview 2012, The Musicals

September 5th, 2012 Comments off

The Cast of "Chaplin". Photo by Joan Marcus.

Buckle up, boys and girls! The theater season is about to get up and rolling so we’ve got a two part preview of the tunes and tears the Great White Way has to offer through the end of the year. Since the first show out of the gate post-Labor Day is a musical, let’s start with a closer look at the originals and revivals singing and dancing onto Broadway during the rest of 2012.

On a quick glance, the slate is…well…a bit like the island of misfit toys; a curiosity chest of pieces with unusual histories from less than name brand writers. But one never knows until the curtain goes up what we truly have in store; the oddest ducks (or Cats) can sometimes turn out to be blockbusters.

Chaplin (September 10): One of Hollywood’s first mega-stars gets the first slot of the season in what promises to be a splashy theatrical biography. The biggest news is that the lead is being played by a relative unknown (almost unheard of in these marquee driven times), Rob McClure. Also in the plus column, a book co-written by musical vet Thomas Meehan (Hairspray) and supporting turns from the recent Closer than Ever dynamic duo Jenn Colella and Christiane Noll…as well as our very own Theater Buff, Wayne Wilcox.

Read more…

Sondheim Reveals New Show, Chita Rivera Returns & More Theater News

March 2nd, 2012 Comments off

Extra! Extra! We’ve got your quick and tasty theater news headlines for the week that was:

  • The First Lady of high kicks Chita Rivera will return to Broadway next season in the first-ever revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the choose-your-own ending Tony winner for Best Musical 1986.
  • Hollywood heat-seekers Justin Long (Going the Distance, Mac commercials) and Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park) will be taking over the lead roles in the hit comedy Seminar beginning April 3.
  • The King of creepy/awesome children’s literature Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) is making it to Broadway as the critically-acclaimed West End adaptation of Matilda The Musical jumps across the pond for a 2013 debut.