To paraphrase a familiar show business saying, “You might be able to lure the girl away from Broadway but you can't take the Broadway out of the girl.” Two-time Tony Award-winning performer Chita Rivera demonstrated that notion in spectacular fashion with her one-woman show “Chita Rivera: My Broadway.”
The closing production of Lyric Theatre's 2012 summer season, “My Broadway” offers a dazzling collection of songs from the Broadway shows in which Rivera has appeared, numbers which are interspersed with anecdotes ranging from the poignant to the humorous.
Rivera is a Broadway legend whose fame is every bit the equal of Hollywood's most luminous stars. She was the quintessential gypsy, the dancer who got plucked out of the chorus, had her mettle tested in a few featured parts and ultimately graduated to starring roles.
And what roles she originated — Anita in “West Side Story,” Rosie in “Bye Bye Birdie,” Velma in “Chicago,” Anna in “The Rink” and the title character in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Furthermore, at an age when most performers are happy to rest on their laurels, Rivera will return to Broadway this fall in a revival of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood.”
Dance has figured prominently in Rivera's remarkable career, but at age 79, she has closed that chapter in her life. She made light of that decision in her opening number, Jerome Kern's delightful “I Won't Dance.”
“My Broadway” takes a journey filled with nostalgia, from the highly-charged emotions of “A Boy Like That” to the lighthearted, even flippant attitude of “America,” both from “West Side Story,” the show that truly launched her career.
It was easy to understand her astonishment when she pointed out that 2012 marks the 55th anniversary of that groundbreaking musical. Patting the underside of her chin, Rivera said she still feels like she's living the life of a 35-year old woman.
But a 35-year old can't summon the life experiences Rivera calls upon to inform her material. Watching her perform is like a master class in how to act a musical theater song. I've rarely heard a performance of “Where Am I Going?” from “Sweet Charity” that resonated so powerfully. Or experienced the abundant joy of “Nowadays” from “Chicago.”