Memories, magic, and music from a Broadway legend, from May 9 through 20.
Whether or not you’re a native New Yorker or a Broadway fan, you’ve probably heard of Chita Rivera, the incandescent singer-dancer whose performance as Anita in the original Broadway premiere of West Side Story brought her stardom and launched a 60-year career. Not only is Rivera one of America’s indispensable icons of musical theatre; she is the first Latina to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award (in 2002), and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Rivera trained in ballet as a teen and began her career at age 17, featuring in musicals that would become classics such as Call Me Madam, Can-Can, and Guys and Dolls. But her breakthrough role was as the feisty Anita in West Side Story in 1957, with songs like “America” and “A Boy Like That”. After the astounding success of that musical, Rivera went on to work in other iconic productions on stage and in film such as Bye Bye Birdie, Sweet Charity, The Visit, and she even appeared on TV in Will & Grace.
If you’re in New York in the next fortnight, grab a table at Cafe Carlyle, a venue that is as legendary as Chita Rivera herself. Cafe Carlyle at The Carlyle Hotel opened in 1955, two years before Rivera’s debut in West Side Story. This mid-century supper club is one of the last of its kind in New York City, if not the world. The room features lovely original murals created by French artist Marcel Vertès, the Oscar-winning art director of the 1952 film Moulin Rouge. Dinner and the show at Cafe Carlyle is a treat that affords an intimate and upscale trip down memory lane, revisiting the best of Broadway and the American Songbook, far away from the hustle and bustle of Times Square.
Chita Rivera’s show is a not-to-be-missed delight, offering a seamless journey through some of the true highlights of her career, such as a Bernstein-Sondheim medley from West Side Story, and several songs by the brilliant John Kander and Fred Ebb including a medley from Kiss of the Spider Woman (for which Rivera won a Tony). It’s a unique pleasure to see Rivera perform “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” from The Rink, an unusual mother-daughter musical co-starring Liza Minnelli, and then crown the evening with a dazzling top hat and cane rendition of “All That Jazz,” in honor of her friend and co-star, the great Gwen Verdon. Rivera is a dancer through and through and the way she moves, with such impeccable timing made us wish she had a larger stage on which to strut her stuff. But this is a classic cabaret experience, up close and personal, with fine patter and excellent musical backing. Rivera is accompanied by her music director Michael Croiter and a lively, top-notch trio.
Rivera’s last show at The Carlyle sold out, so her return performance is one to be savored. Make a reservation here.