Septuagenarian Broadway legend Chita Rivera (pictured) will return to the West End this autumn to bring her acclaimed cabaret show to London for the first time. Presented as part of what’s hoped will become a regular season, held at different venues but all under the title The American Songbook in London, Chita Sings (previously titled Up Close) will run for two weeks only at Wyndham’s Theatre from 10 to 23 September 2007.
Created specially for London, Chita Sings is an expanded version of Rivera’s critically acclaimed performance at Feinstein's at the Regency in New York. Accompanied by conductor David Krane, she will perform songs from her long career, including "America" and "A Boy Like That" from West Side Story; "All That Jazz," "Nowadays" and "Class" from Chicago; and "Big Spender," "Where Am I Going?" and "Something Better Than This" from Sweet Charity. The show will be hosted each night by US cabaret artist Jeff Harnar, who is also co-producing.
In a career spanning more than 50 years, Rivera’s Broadway musical highlights include creating the roles of Anita in 1957’s West Side Story (and later reprising her performance in London) and Velma Kelly in 1975’s Chicago. She has won two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical – for Kiss of the Spider Woman (which she performed first in London in 1992) and Kander and Ebb’s The Rink - while her other Broadway credits include Nine, Merlin, Jerry’s Girls, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Mr Wonderful, Seventh Heaven and, most recently, her autobiographical The Dancer’s Life.
Rivera’s other stage credits include Born Yesterday, The Rose Tattoo, Call Me Madam, Threepenny Opera, Sweet Charity, Kiss Me Kate, Can-Can and Zorba. On screen, she appeared with Shirley MacLaine in Kander and Ebb’s Sweet Charity and had a cameo appearance in the recent adaptation of Chicago. She last appeared in the West End in 1999 when she took on the role of fellow murderess Roxie Hart in the current stage revival of the Kander and Ebb classic (See News, 12 Jul 1999).
Chita Sings is produced at Wyndham’s as part of The American Songbook by Americans Keith Turnipseed and Jeff Harnar, who've both previously mounted shows here at the Off-West End Jermyn Street Theatre. Turnipseed explained the thinking behind the new project: “Over the last few years on my trips to London, I have noticed the absence of what we in America think of as ‘cabaret’ – that sophisticated, witty, introspective evocation of the words and music of our greatest composers – and have wanted to try and bring that sort of entertainment back to the London cultural map. We are excited to be launching this special series as part of that vision, and look forward to establishing a permanent cabaret venue in London, in the near future.”
Jeff Harnar added: “Oscar Hammerstein wrote, ‘A song is not a song until you sing it.’ It is our hope that when one sees The American Songbook in London banner, whether it be on a West End marquis or at an intimate cabaret venue, one will know to expect world-class entertainers bringing to life the timeless magic of the American popular song.”
- by Terri Paddock