DIVA TALK: Two-Time Tony Winner Chita Rivera Dazzles in Solo Broadway Cares Concert

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11 Oct 2013

Chita Rivera
Photo by Daniel Roberts

A video from composer John Kander kicked off the intermissionless evening's second half, one devoted entirely to the songs written by Kander and the late Fred Ebb. Up first was a medley from Kiss of the Spider Woman, the 1993 musical that won Rivera her second Tony. Backed by dancers Richard Amaro, Brad Bradley, Lloyd Culbreath, Raymond Del Barrio, Robert Montano and Alex Sanchez, Rivera dazzled with portions of "Where You Are," "Gimme Love" and an especially belty version of the title tune.

A simple, touching reading of The Happy Time's "I Don't Remember You" preceded Rivera's recollection of a Kander and Ebb phone call inviting her to be part of their new musical The Rink, which would co-star Liza Minnelli. "Oh, I'd love to play girlfriends with Liza," Rivera remembered telling her songwriting friends. "Oh… It's a mother and daughter.… Who's playing the mother?" Rivera laughed. She then delivered a rousing "Chief Cook and Bottle Washer."

"Love and Love Alone" was the sole offering from the Broadway-bound The Visit, and Rivera concluded her high-energy set with three tunes from Chicago, each special in its own way. For "Class," which drew laugh after laugh, she was joined by Tony winner Ben Vereen, who lent his soaring vocals to the role of Matron "Mama" Morton. In "Nowadays," Rivera offered a remarkable vocal impersonation of her late friend and Chicago co-star Gwen Verdon; at one point, she bowed and blew a kiss to where Verdon would have been standing – a truly touching gesture. And, by the time Broadway's favorite gypsy belted out "And all that jah-azzz" — joined by all of her special guests — the entire audience was once again on its feet.

Rivera and Ben Vereen
photo by Daniel Roberts

A visibly moved Rivera explained how grateful she was for everyone's generosity, not only towards her but to Broadway Cares. "I've lost so many of my friends to AIDS — thank you for coming, for caring, for sharing, for giving, because Broadway Cares really needs you and we must never forget that," Rivera said. She then dedicated her touching encore, "Circle of Friends," to those she had lost, those who remain and those she has yet to meet.

Although this writer has had the pleasure of catching Rivera on Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman, The Dancer's Life, Nine and, most recently, in the revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, this evening was somehow even more remarkable, one of those magical nights in the theatre. It was also abundantly clear that the gifted performer is loved not only by her legion of fans, but also by the theatre community, who were among those reveling in this night to remember. Happy (belated) birthday, Ms. Rivera.

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Chita: A Legendary Celebration raised $413,660 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. BC/EFA executive director Tom Viola said earlier this week, "Chita has been a true and loyal friend to Broadway Cares since our beginnings more than 25 years ago. The energy and enthusiasm she shared onstage tonight were just another example of her impassioned dedication to making a difference in the lives of so many others who need our help the most." Visit Broadwaycares.org.

Read my recent interview with Rivera here.

 

Well, that's all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to agans@playbill.com.



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