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Chita Rivera Lights Up the Café Carlyle

by Photo of Paul Hansen

The legendary Broadway performer gives four encore performances at the Carlyle.

Chita Rivera Lights Up the Café Carlyle


After a very successful two week debut engagement at the Café Carlyle, Broadway legend Chita Rivera has returned for an encore of four performances at the prestigious venue.  Ms. Rivera’s delightful and mesmerizing show is a reminder of why she has been a fixture on the Broadway stage for seven decades.   

If one were to list all of Chita’s accomplishments in the theatre world it would verge on being encyclopedic.   Her most celebrated performance was probably creating the role of Anita in the original production of West Side Story in 1957.   She was also in the original casts of such iconic Broadway productions as Bye Bye Birdie and Chicago.  During the show she joked that several years ago while walking about Manhattan, she saw advertisements for three concurrent revivals of Birdie, Chicago and West Side Story and wondered if she needed to be some place at 8 pm.                      

Chita began her career as a dancer and towards the beginning of her performance at the Carlyle she made the observation that “rhythm introduces body to spirit”.  Even on the very confined stage space at the Café she engaged in some dance moves that gave an indication as to why her Broadway performances were considered so electric.  And in all candor it was a thrill to hear the original Anita break out into a chorus of “America” from West Side Story. 

Other memorable selections from the evening included "All That Jazz" and Jacques Brel’s steadily accelerating "Carousel."   It was also very entertaining to hear her talk about working with such luminaries as Ricardo Montalban, Dick Van Dyke,  Antonio Banderas and Leonard Bernstein, to name a few.  She is supported by an excellent four piece band that gave a truly swinging intro to the evening with some dance excerpts from West Side.     

I think that part of Chita’s charm and success can be attributed to the fact that she doesn’t seem trapped or overwhelmed by the considerable achievements of her past or seem to have a desire to rest on her very significant laurels.  (She has been nominated for 10 Tony awards and won twice.)  It is as if the past is all prelude to enjoying and performing in the present effervescent moment.

The spirit of the evening could be summed up in Chita’s rendition of "A Lot of Livin’ to Do" from Bye Bye Birdie.    The lyrics seem to define her vibrancy as a performer:  “Life is a ball if only you know it, and it's all just waiting for you…”

Chita’s last performance is this Saturday evening May 21 at 8:45 pm.   Anyone who wants to see a continuing dynamic piece of Broadway history or those who would simply like to have their spirits lifted should definitely attend.  Ms. Rivera is a performer who lights up a room as soon as she enters it, and I very much hope that she will be back at the Carlyle soon. 

Famed trumpeter Herb Alpert and Grammy Award winning vocalist and producer Lani Hall will be returning to the Café Carlyle from May 31 through June 11.  And Woody Allen continues to play his clarinet every Monday evening through June 13 at the Café with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band.  

The Café Carlyle is located at 35 East 76 th St. in Manhattan.  






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