Chita Rivera Remembered at the Café Carlyle: Putting on her Vamp

Cheta Revera
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 FieldsSweet 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.”

With all due respect to Catherine Zeta-Jones who earned an Oscar for her film role as Velma in Chicago, Chita Rivera blows away all competition. Of course she originated the role of Velma in 1975, opposite Gwen Verdon, only one of her iconic Broadway performances in a career that includes Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, as well as West Side Story. Accompanied by an expert band, with music director Michael Croiter on guitar, Jason Loffredo on piano, Jim Donica’s bass, and Dan Willis reeds, she samples from her Broadway hits including the show-stopping vamp for “All That Jazz,” top hat, cane, and all.

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