Chita Rivera & Tommy Tune–a review   Leave a comment


I wonder how many people reading this know who Chita Rivera and/or Tommy Tune are? A few facts about each:

Chita has won two Tony awards as Best Leading Actress in a Broadway musical plus 8 nominations. She originated the role of Anita in “West Side Story” 60 years ago and was the  Spider Woman in “The Kiss of the Spider Woman”, was Rosie in “Bye, Bye Birdie”, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, in 2002 was the first Hispanic woman ever chosen to win the coveted Kennedy Center Honor. In the past few years, she did a one-woman show on Broadway and in 2015 she headlined at Carnegie Hall in New York. Last season at the age of 82 she appeared on Broadway in “The Visit” and this year, at the age of 83, turning 84 this Monday, she is touring across America with Tommy Tune.


Tommy Tune is as charismatic as he is tall and he is tall–6’3″–and a smile just as wide. He has 10 Tony awards for performer, choreographer and director for such varied shows as “My One and Only” with Twiggy, “Seesaw”, “The Will Rogers Follies”, Grand Hotel” and other Broadway musicals. He starred in the musical “Hello Dolly” with Barbra Streisand directed by Gene Kelly. Tommy will be 79 on February 28.

I fell ‘in love’ with Chita Rivera in September 1957, when she opened in “West Side Story” at the Winter Garden Theatre and returned the next day to buy tickets for the next 4 performances. It would remain my most favorite show until 1975 when “A Chorus Line” opened at the same time Chita starred in the opening of “Chicago” playing Velma. Three of my favorite Broadway dancers/performers were on Broadway that year: Chita Rivera, Gwen Verdon and Donna McKechnie.

As I watched Rivera I saw and heard the young girl, younger woman, as she sang “All That Jazz”, “A Boy Like That” and “America”. My younger self sighedas she and Tune danced a bar or two of “The Dance at the Gym” but then reality hit. Chita Rivera looks great with a dancer’s figure, certainly walks like one and uses her hands and body as a professional dancer does. I knew of her car accident when she broke her leg in 12 places and I knew it would be too much for her to twirl about, high kick and have the energy of her 20-30-year-old but there was a minimum of dancing and certainly, none show-stopping as she had done in the past. To give her credit she did stop the show and get standing ovations after singing “Love and Love Alone” from her last show “The Visit” and “Carousel” from “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris”.

I accepted the fact that the dancing would be at a minimum but I was very surprised that after 60 years on stage, while singing, you could hear her gulping for words, not having breath control. It really brought me down duringher numbers where I couldn’t picture the younger Chita. I was aware that she was old–and so was I!

I saw Tommy Tune in 3 Broadway musicals and the movie “Hello Dolly” plus his one-man show a few years ago. He really doesn’t have any ‘they are playing my song’ numbers but he still has that style, grace and, yes, smile that he had 62 years ago plus a full head of hair, now a beautiful white and though he doesn’t kick as high as he use to he can still win an audience over with his tapping. He also did a funny and fairly accurate impersonation of Carol Channing giving him advice when he was first starting in the business.

There were some charming moments of Chita and Tommy singing, dancing and trading stories. I really wish they had dome more of the latter.

I left the Parker Playhouse sort of ‘down’ knowing I was unfair thinking that Chita had let me down but that’s how I felt. 

Posted January 20, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, THEATRE REVIEW, Uncategorized

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