Chita Rivera at 54 Below - New York City Article

Chita Rivera at 54 Below


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Chita Rivera at 54 Below

Mar 17, 2018, 12:00 am

Chita Rivera
Feinstein’s / 54 Below
254 W 54th Street, (646) 476-3551
Saturday March 17, Tuesday March 20, Wednesday March 21, Thursday March 22

Performers in the musical theater sphere are often measured according to their “threat count,” ie, somehow who can sing, dance, and act is typically described as a “triple threat.” Such delineation of different talents is irrelevant when we consider Chita Rivera, who not only does all three, plus comedy and extremely advanced storytelling, but does all these things in a seamless package of a performance that blends them all together. She is a blur of constant motion, every number, from a complex narrative musical monolog like “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” (from The Rink) to a dance number as deliberately simple as the bossa nova “Sweet Happy Life” is not only sung but danced, and not only sung and danced, but acted. In the hands, or rather, feet, of a lesser artist, all that dancing and moving around might distract from the lyric, but Ms. Rivera learned long ago (not least from ace choreographer and directors like Jerome Robbins and Gower Champion) how to put over a song with her whole body, with her torso and her tootsies as much as her chops. Much as she would hate to admit it, at 85, Chita Rivera is a living legend, one whom Broadway buffs revere from her iconic performances in Mr. Wonderful, West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Sweet Charity, Chicago, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and many others, but like her contemporaries, the late Elaine Stritch and Barbara Cook, she also mastered the art of the solo supper club show. In performance pieces like Jacques Brel’s tour-de-force of a killer waltz, “Carousel” (not to be confused with Rodgers & Hammerstein), she transcends the whole genre of what is still often called “cabaret” to create a highly-intimate, very personal kind of one woman theatrical experience.

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Author: Will Friedwald
Photography by: STEPHEN SOROKOFF

Author: Will Friedwald

Will Friedwald writes about music and popular culture for THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, VANITY FAIR and PLAYBOY magazine and reviews current shows for THE CITIVIEW NEW YORK. He also is the author of nine books, including the award-winning A BIOGRAPHICAL GUIDE TO THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP SINGERS, SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU, STARDUST MELODIES, TONY BENNETT: THE GOOD LIFE, LOONEY TUNES & MERRIE MELODIES, and JAZZ SINGING. He has written over 600 liner notes for compact discs, received ten Grammy nominations, and appears frequently on television and other documentaries. He is also a consultant and curator for Apple Music.

New Books:

THE GREAT JAZZ AND POP VOCAL ALBUMS (Pantheon Books / Random House, November 2017)

SINATRA: THE SONG IS YOU - NEW REVISED EDITION (Chicago Review Press, May 2018)