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Chita solo 2013


Chita & Gwen Verdon – original Broadway production of CHICAGO (1975)




By Rosalind Marmel, California Correspondent, February 7, 2014

It’s not too late to party with the one and only Ms. Chita Rivera as she honors us with the privilege of celebrating highlights of her remarkable career in her solo performance of CHITA: A LEGENDARY CELEBRATION. 


January 25th, 2014 was a night that will be implanted in California history. At Dodger Stadium, during a week of 85 degree F weather, the 1st ever outdoor hockey game in Los Angeles with the Anaheim Ducks beating the L.A. Kings on a regulation hockey rink with real ice, not the artificial kind, as if it were Winnipeg with minus 50 C weather , skeptics everywhere were certain that this “only in L.A.” happening was going to be a swimming event rather than a pro-hockey game. If there’s ever been a pro-hockey game going on with a beach volley ball game next to it, since hockey arenas are smaller than baseball stadiums and Californians don’t waste space, I haven’t heard of it.  As much as I wanted to see what I imagined would be the kind of total chaos that I at times consider a vacation, I decided not to attend.


Why not?  After thinking of any excuse I could, to be there, I knew in my heart that I wanted even more passionately to join a SRO group of fans of the show girl of all show girls, Ms. Chita Rivera as she celebrated her 80th birthday, despite turning 81 on January, 23rd.


The celebration took place across town at the pride of the L.A. San Fernando valley’s new architectural and acoustical wonder, the Valley Performing Arts Center, conveniently located on the campus of California State University Northridge. 


A week earlier, the Tel Aviv born, (1948), Pinchas Zukerman who at this time is in his 13th season as Music Director of The National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa conducted The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Canada’s Juno Award -winning cellist, Amanda Forsyth as soloist.  Born in South Africa, she moved to Canada and began playing cello at age 3. She became a protege of William Pleeth in London. Later she studied with Harvey Shapiro at the Julliard School.  After two seasons with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, she became the youngest principal ever selected by the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, a position she held for 6 years.


The night before, Anthony E. Cantrell, PhD, directed, IT’S SHOWTIME FOLKS, celebrating 60 years of the late Bob Fosse’s works.


Let’s get back to Chita Rivera. I am just giving you an idea of what you can attend at The Valley Performing Arts Center. There’s something for everyone almost nightly.


Keep reading, snow birds and cold weather chickens...I’m one of them, sneezing and coughing... (that night the temp dropped to 65 F).... Chita Rivera isn’t even pondering the idea of slowing down. She was in Northridge that night directly from her sold-out smash concert in New York, stopping en route, to do her solo performance in minus 20 F weather in La Crosse, Wisconsin. With tour dates in between, she will be continuing her celebration to which you are all invited on February 21st at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert, California.  From there she goes to the Fairmont in San Francisco on February 23rd, then to the Harris Center in Folsom, California for performances on February 24th and 25th, in case she gets bored with getting a bit of rest before entertaining you Floridian snow birds at The Aventura Arts and Cultural Center on March 7th in Aventura, Florida. There will be plenty of birthday cake.  Her cake that night had 1 candle. She said that she feared that more might burn the place down. Instead she set us on fire with her feisty, fiery and yet totally relaxed performance. 


“A girl turns 80 once in her life, thank God,” Ms. Rivera said, “and I want everyone there as proof.”


I first saw Chita perform one of her two Tony-Award winning roles for Best Actress in a Musical, in 1993 as she danced, acted and sang one of the most emotionally charged and challenging roles I’ve seen in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, produced by former Winnipegger, Garth Drabinsky and the former Livent production company, never dreaming that over 20 years later I would see her looking not a day older with no less energy. Her voice is as powerful as ever. Her dancing is that of a gifted teenager. Her smile, laughter and demeanor are magnetic.


Chita first played the role of the Spider Woman in 1992 in the Toronto production receiving unanimous acclaim. That fall she repeated her triumphant role in the London production, which won The Evening Standard Award as Best Musical of the Year. From London she starred in the role on Broadway and continued with touring productions.  


This show highlights signature moments from her illustrious career including songs from WEST SIDE STORY, SWEET CHARITY, KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, BYE, BYE BIRDIE, CHICAGO, THE RINK and more. She won her 1st Tony Award for Best Actress in a musical in 1984 for her performance in THE RINK co-starring with Liza Minnelli. . Ms. Rivera received 7 additional Tony nominations. She’s only 81 so by no means will a total of nine nominations necessarily be her grand total. 


The evening included a special tribute to her cherished friends, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Strouse, Jerry Herman and Stephen Sondheim. I was most awed by her performance of the song, “Carousel”, from JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND LIVING IN PARIS. The live orchestra accompanying her was brilliantly conducted by the famed award-winning composer, lyricist,orchestrator, arranger and musician, Michael Croiter.  The next night he was up for a Grammy Award as the producer of the original Broadway cast recording of MATILDA. Cindy Lauper won for KINKY BOOTS. It must have been a close vote. The arrangement of “Carousel” with dazzling lighting effects and percussion made me feel as though I was actually riding on a carousel.  Had I not known better when I briefly closed my eyes, it seemed as if Ms. Rivera and her accompanists and the rest of us, were all with Brel in Paris.  I would go to see the show again even if just for the performance of, “Carousel.”  Her finale performance of, “All That Jazz”, from CHICAGO, when she played the role of Roxie Hart, opposite Gwen Verdon and later Liza Minelli in the original 1975 stage production commanded one of the evening’s many standing ovations and an encore performance of, “Circle of Friends.”  Ms. Rivera talked about how blessed she feels to have had and have the circle of friends she does.  We felt blessed spending the evening in that intimate setting with Ms. Chita Rivera. 


Chita Rivera was born in Washington, D.C. on January, 23rd, 1933.  Her mother was a government clerk. Her father was a

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