Concert Review: Kathryn W. Stein Memorial Concert featuring Chita Rivera at the 92nd Street Y

Joseph Verlezza

  • New York Theatre Critic

To begin by stating that Chita Rivera is a legend in her own time would be a factual compliment, but it would not do justice to all that the musical theater icon has accomplished in her exuberant career. Her talent and drive have always been evident. At fifteen years of age she auditioned for the School of American Ballet, was accepted and given a scholarship. A mere three years later she was off and running in the touring production of “Call Me Madam” which proved to be a stepping stone for the string of Broadway shows that were to follow, ushering her to the role of Anita in “West Side Story.” This was the entry to stardom and the start of an illustrious career.

Chita Rivera solo Photo by Daniel Coston 2015 WP.jpg

Ms. Rivera has ten TONY nominations, a record she shares with Julie Harris, three TONY awards, the first Hispanic woman to receive the Kennedy Center Honor and has been awarded The Presidential Medal Of Freedom. These are a few highlights among the countless other plaudits that recognize her talent and contribution to American theater. Imagine accomplishing all this, managing to remain humble and grateful, and taking to the stage at a young eighty-five, only to mesmerize her audience, bringing them to their feet with thunderous applause to show their respect and adoration. This is what the crowd witnessed at the recent Kathryn W. Stein Memorial concert at the 92nd Street Y.

The concert was more than just a song and dance routine: Ms. Rivera proved to be a wonderful storyteller, sharing anecdotes of her opportunities and professional relationships that occurred throughout her career. Launching into “A Lot of Livin’ To Do” (“Bye Bye Birdie,” Charles Strouse/Lee Adams) gets the crowd primed for a medley from “West Side Story” (Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim) which included “A Boy Like That” and “America.” Two of the most dramatic and electrifying moments came from the poignant rendition of “Where Am I Going” (“Sweet Charity”, Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields) and the feverish “Carousel” (Jacques Brel). If this was not enough to satisfy the most discerning musical theater aficionado, what followed are songs and tales of her longtime collaboration with John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. Memorable moments from “The Rink” and “The Visit” are just precursors to the ever-familiar Chita vamp that teases the audience to prepare themselves for “Nowadays” and “All That Jazz” from “Chicago.”

Ms. Rivera’s lifeline to the music are the members of her incredible band who support and energize her performance. Michael Croiter (music director/percussion/guitar), Gary Adler (associate music director/piano) and Jim Donica (bass) are remarkable musicians who never miss a beat. This performance was beyond what anyone would expect from such a musical theater icon, being all giving, all engaging and all entertaining. It is a concert that will live in the hearts of its audience for a long time. The only thing left to say is, do yourself a favor, secure your reservation immediately to see the outstanding Chita Rivera coming to Feinstein’s 54 Below in January 2019.

KATHRYN W. STEIN MEMORIAL CONCERT FEATURING CHITA RIVERA AT THE 92nd STREET Y THERESA L. KAUFMANN CONCERT HALL

The musicians for Ms. Rivera’s concert include Michael Croiter (music director/percussion/guitar), Gary Adler (associate music director/piano), and Jim Donica (bass). The lighting designer is Andrew Fritsch.

For further information on the 92nd Street Y and its programs, please visit https://www.92y.org/.