Broadway musical legend Chita Rivera takes the narrow strip of stage at the Café Carlyle, maneuvering her sequined body strategically so she won’t end up in your vodka tonic. Nobody moves like Chita Rivera. The consummate showwoman, she gives a great, not to be missed night, starting with “A Lot of Living to Do.” For her West Side Story medley, in honor of its 60th anniversary, she tells of Leonard Bernstein teaching her the role of Anita, and sings “A Boy Like That,” and “America.” With stories galore, and memories of performers who inspired her, such as Rosemary Clooney from whom she learned she could just stand there and sing, and then of course defying that she shimmies through “Sweet Happy Life,” advising, “It’s great when your spirit and body get together.” When she sings “Where Am I Going?” from Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields’ Sweet Charity, you feel grateful to have her right here, coquettish as three hookers, “Camille, Collette, Fifi” and wistful singing the ups and downs of Jacques Brel’s “Carousel.”
Most poignant is her rendition of “Winter,” from Kander & Ebb’s The Visit. She starred in that play on Broadway in 2015 opposite Roger Rees, in his last performance. Reminiscing, she says, when people thought the 1956 story was about revenge, she always said, no, it is about eternal love. As part of her opening night encore, Carol Hall’s “Circle of Friends,” Chita Rivera thanked everyone, including Stevie van Zandt and Seth Rudetsky, for being there: you could feel her love.