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Youmans: Chita Rivera to perform hits from a storied career

November 10, 2011|By Heather Youmans
  • Chita Rivera performs through Sunday at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Chita Rivera performs through Sunday at the Segerstrom… (Laura Marie Duncan )

Two-time Tony award-winner Chita Rivera will jazz up Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa this week during a cabaret-style evening of timeless music and storytelling.

"Chita Rivera: My Broadway," which has four shows Thursday through Sunday, will feature hit songs from Rivera's legendary Broadway career, while showcasing some of the best-known musical theater composers, including Leonard Bernstein, John Kander, Fred Ebb, Charles Strouse, Stephen Sondheim and Cy Coleman.

Accompanied by her longtime musical trio, as well as musical director Michael Croiter, Rivera will perform "America" from "West Side Story," "Where Am I Going" and "Big Spender" from "Sweet Charity," "All That Jazz" and "Nowadays" from "Chicago" and select numbers from "Bye Bye Birdie," "Kiss of the Spiderwoman" and "The Rink," the last two of which earned her Tony Awards for best leading actress in a musical.

"When you've got material that you've been lucky enough to originate, and people that might have seen the shows, you just do what your heart tells you and you have good people around you that help you put it together, and then it kind of flows," Rivera said in a phone interview.

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Looking back, she sees each of her roles as learning experiences, theatrical journeys in which she discovered herself through these diverse sets of characters, she said.

"You learn so much about yourself through the roles that you do," the fiery, free-spirited Rivera said. "The roles came along at the right time in my life. I remember when I did 'Spiderwoman.' I've realized that that [role] was perfect for that time in my life, that age. I was always curious about death and she was death. She was really glamorous, and I felt glamorous at that time."

"I remember with 'West Side' I had just gotten married, and I had just become pregnant in 'West Side'," she said of her portrayal of Anita. "The part was not only fiery and passionate, she sort of took care of Maria. That was at the perfect time in my life when I was about to have a baby and the show itself was taking care of Maria."

"In 'Birdie,' that was a lot of fun," she said of her role as Rose, which she originated on Broadway in 1960 and reprised in London a year later. "That satisfied that very light-hearted side of me with Dick Van Dyke. They're all a part of me. I'm crazy and I love to laugh and I'm able to do those kinds of roles. It's all very interesting, me getting introduced to myself."

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