Concert: Chita Rivera



Saturday night (with thanks to the Whingers again for their very sensible tactic of group booking shows) I saw Chita Rivera at the Shaw Theatre. During the course of the week I had to explain who Chita was to a number of people. After telling them to "wash their mouth" once they asked "Who the hell is Chita?", I explained she originated many of the great Broadway roles including Anita in West Side Story and Velma in Chicago. The fact that West Side Story is celebrating it's fiftieth anniversary also firmly puts her in the category of concerts by old Broadway broads like Barbara Cook, Elaine Stritch or Bea Arthur.

There is something fascinating about watching these septuagenarian or octogenarian performers still working and travelling. Whether they need to work or not, they obviously thrive upon the audience adoration. The love from the audience last night didn't quite feel like it was reciprocated however. Mind you, these sorts of concerts seem to drag out of the closet the scariest group of theatre goers ever seen. I couldn't blame Chita being wary of all those hideously bright cashmere scarves, sports jackets and overbearing fragrance that was fashionable twenty years ago. At the end of the show some cheap queen brushed by to the front to give Chita a single red rose. Given the amount of rose oil he or the flower was drenched in, it was hard to tell if either were real. But I guess most of this audience wasn't looking for something real or new anyway. They were here for an embalming of Broadway's past so it worked well for everybody.

Knowing her audience, Chita did give musical medley after musical medley of her back catalogue. But fortunately she also performed some great songs in full by Kander and Ebb and a thrilling rendition of Jaques Brel's Carousel that showed why she still is a great performer and someone who knows her craft. She is more the vampy gravelly kind of singer, but she could hold your attention for nearly ninety minutes. Sitting in the front row of the Shaw also made for an intimate experience, but thankfully she didn't do any of those lightening bolt high kicks she is famous for. That would have been a little too intimate...

Chita made the comment that she was glad to be at the Shaw theatre and was surprised at the audience reaction deriding the venue. There is something soulless about this theatre in Kings Cross attached to a bland hotel, despite the comfortable seats and the proximity of the stage to the audience. The venue lacks a critical mass of theatres and bars around it, but it is good to see there is a space in central London for concert performances. We did eventually find a pub nearby where if you bought two glasses of wine they would throw in the bottle. Still a bit of a false economy if you spend Sunday morning with a hangover I suppose though...

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