Archive Review: Chita Rivera

From November 2007:

At the very beginning of her current cabaret act at Feinstein’s at the Regency Chita Rivera, probably the most beloved living performer of Broadway’s Golden Age, opened by singing “I Won’t Dance” and proceeded to shimmy and shimmer her way through a very hot show. This is razzle-dazzle in the service of a great theatrical presence.

When she made her cabaret debut at Feinstein’s a few seasons back, Chita was holding back a bit, saving some stories and material for the Broadway show Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life. Since that show has finished its run and inspired a successful tour, this diva is free to cut loose, and that she does as only she can.

This edition of her cabaret show is one of the most sophisticated and developed acts of its kind. Her Broadway vehicle featured first-rate Broadway craftsmen giving Broadway royalty a vehicle that purred like a kitten. For this new club act, the always-canny Chita has taken the best of that show and combined it with the strongest elements of her earlier Feinstein’s experience.

She almost launches into “All That Jazz,” the most spectacular of her many signature numbers, no less than three times. When she finally does it as an encore, it’s more than satisfying, it’s positively gratifying.

A positive review is often the the hardest to write – the language of extreme dislike is much richer than the language of praise. If I’m falling short, it’s because this show almost never falters. About the worst I can say is that she didn’t sing the entirety of “America” from West Side Story. I am a Leonard Bernstein fanatic and “America” is one of my most beloved Bernstein songs. Chita sings the hell out of her “America” fragment, leaving someone like me begging for more. What can I do but spout critical clichés? At least I’m not lying!

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