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Michael Musto

Chita Rivera on Continuing to Live in the Nowadays as She Prepares for NYC Concert

Chita Rivera on Continuing to Live in the Nowadays as She Prepares for NYC Concert


"I’ve been running around living the life of a 35-year-old woman. I never knew how old I was."

Chita Rivera at The Orlando Show on July 25, 2016. Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP.

Chita Rivera has created a legend with her succession of memorable Broadway divas, including Anita in West Side Story, Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma in Chicago, Anna in The Rink, Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Claire in The Visit. That's a lot of women on the verge of a nervous breakdown, sometimes giving them. And they all add up to the multifaceted Chita herself. On November 7 at Carnegie Hall, we will come to pay our respects because the two-time Tony winner is appearing in Chita: Nowadays, a Daniel Nardicio produced presentation with guest stars like Javier Munoz, Brandon Victor Dixon, Alan Cumming, Andy Karl, Stevie Van Zandt, and the New York City Gay Men's Chorus. As she prepared for the event, I gabbed with Chita about her life and work.

Hello, Chita. Will this Carnegie Hall event represent some kind of a culmination?

That sounds like it's the end of something. It's quite an honor to be asked. New Yorkers have been so great to me since I was 15 years old. They say, "How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice!" So that's what I've done. To celebrate my time in New York, being so fortunate to have a wonderful career....a very lucky gal I am. I'm with some fabulous people [at the Carnegie Hall event]--and they're all men, which I like a lot.

As for women, you've collaborated on an incredible array of them on Broadway. Would you say the fact that they're incredibly strong is something that links them?

I guess I never quite of thought of it that way because it definitely comes from me also. I'm a potpourri of everything--the clown, the mistress, the strong women, the mother, the Greek, the French, the Italian. I've been around long enough to do all that. It's fortunate I've been around to be a part of the golden age, where the opportunities were all there and I didn't miss it. It's a ball and it still is. What I loved about Nowadays, the title itself, was it was written for Velma in the original Chicago by John and Fred [Kander and Ebb], and it really sums up wat I'm kind of about. I'm about today.

Kander and Ebb are among the great forces in your career.

Liza and I can both say that we were both fortunate enough to be there, and their wanting to use us to express their genius. Freddie [Ebb] knew me better than I knew myself. He and Terence could write better than I could for me. Terrence McNally's a big part of it. I just got back from Italy a couple of days ago. I stay at a particular place and I've been doing that ever since I did West Side in London, 1959. Long before you were born, I'm sure.

I don't think so [chortle]. Is West Side Story the show of yours that you think has the most life and will live forever?

I guess so. This year it's the 59th anniversary. Like I say in my show, I've been running around living the life of a 35-year-old woman. I never knew how old I was. That's the best way to look at it. And it's also a a significant show. But they're all great. Spider Woman, I thought, was an important and beautiful show.

In 2004, at the LGBT Center, you told me, "I've never been all straight. Everyone has their curveballs." [I had joked about Chita being the only straight woman in the room during West Side Story, considering the presence of Jerome Robbins, Larry Kert, Sondheim, and so on.]

I don't know what I meant by that. I have no idea what I meant by that. I was probably joking around because I am a serious joker.

Chita: Nowadays will take place on November 7, 8 p.m., at Carnegie Hall. Find more information here.

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Michael Musto