Photo Credit: Maryann Lopinto

CHITA RIVERA
FEINSTEIN’S 54/BELOW
MAY 30TH, 2019 – 7PM

Chita Rivera was back at Feinstein’s after her previous sold out run in March of 2018. She was joined by her trio Michael Croiter (Music Director/guitar) Gary Adler (Assoc. MD & piano) and Jim Donica (Bass). The Broadway legend (and two time Tony Winner) recreated signature moments from West Side Story, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Kiss Of The Spider Woman, Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink and The Visit.

Dressed in a bright red pant suit-Rivera came through the audience to take her place on stage for the opening: Gotta Lot of Living To Do  (Lee Adams/Charles Strouse from Bye Bye Birdie). Rivera effortlessly commands the stage and her audience. At 86- she shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. She moves beautifully and is as elegant and striking as ever.

She followed with a medley from Kiss of the Spider Woman (Fred Ebb, John Kander) before slowing down for Not Exactly Paris (Russell George, Michael Leonard). Rivera is a great story teller and very quickly depicted the tale of one woman’s many loves and the one that was close to what she imagined love would be. Her next set was a medley from West Side Story(Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein) – Once again Rivera quickly shifted gears and evoked the fire and anger of Anita in A Boy Like That, and the spirit and energy of America. She told the story of going to Bernstein’s apartment to learn the music for West Side Story and how nervous and excited she was. Throughout the evening, Rivera honored the many performers she worked with and the writers and composers whose words and music she brought to life on the stage.

Rivera then performed Where Am I Going? (Dorothy Fields, Cy Coleman from Sweet Charity). Facing forward, with quivering lips, Rivera found the vulnerability and plea in the song. The next song Carousel (Jacques Brel) was one of Rivera’s strongest performances of the evening. Rivera began the number facing upstage- then turned and looked out across the room. She clearly saw the carousel and carnival she was about to sing about. She used her arms and body to create it and the building anxiety in the song. The red lights which were used added to the crazy carnival world Rivera inhabited and brought us into.

In Sweet Happy Life (Norman Gimbel, Luiz Bonfa), Rivera played with the audience and her trio. She moved her torso back and forth to the rhythm of the music saying “wow”- then doubled over in mock pain, quickly including us in on the joke. She danced through the song and when the audience cheered her on she commented on how all of our spirits were connected.

The next section of the evening was devoted to the work of John Kander and Fred Ebb and Rivera’s long association with them in such classics as Chicago, The Rink and more recently The Visit. She shared stories about working with Liza in The Rink such as In Chief Cook and Bottle Washer where she stepped into the mother role rather than Liza’s “buddy.”

Another highlight of the evening was Nowadays from Chicago. With hat and cane, Rivera charmed the audience as she sang and danced. At one point in the song- she lovingly imitated Gwen Verdon’s shaky voice. Rivera also payed tribute to other old friends such as the late Roger Rees who she honored with great fondness.

Her next song All That Jazz-the sure fire showstopper was just that. Rivera introduced it with the story of how she got her own vamp just as Liza did. When she went into the number she did so with great joy as she played with both her trio and the audience.

She ended the evening with the song I’m Old Fashioned (Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer) sitting by the piano and playing off her bass player who had a big (well played) solo and the other musicians onstage. It was a nice way to end the evening singing this intimate song and working so well with and honoring the musicians who supported her throughout the evening. Rivera exited through her audience who clearly loved her and the great body of work she has been a part of.