It's just another song and dance Review: Chita Rivera puts a fair measure of singing and dancing into her revue, 'Chita & All That Jazz.' Too bad she didn't give it more thought.

May 28, 1998|By J. Wynn Rousuck | J. Wynn Rousuck,SUN THEATER CRITIC

Chita Rivera calls her new revue, "Chita & All That Jazz," but in its current form at the Lyric Opera House, it's more like "Chita & Some of That Jazz."

The 75-minute intermission-less show is entertaining, and, heaven knows, at 65, with a body as lithe and toned as that of a 20-year-old, Rivera is a wonder to behold.

But even fans of the revue format -- and that's a limited number -- are apt to find this one rather slight.

Although the performer includes some autobiographical comments in her brief remarks between songs, the show -- directed and choreographed by John DeLuca -- is primarily Rivera's singing-and-dancing thank-you note for a career that has included major roles in Broadway shows ranging from "West Side Story" to "Kiss of the Spider Woman."

From the standpoint of etiquette, thank-you's are always appreciated, but on stage they tend to be less than dramatic.

Maybe it would help if the show included material from some of Rivera's flops -- at least there'd be some novelty in hearing a number or two from "Zenda" or "Bring Back Birdie," or even "The Rink," for which Rivera won the first of her two Tony Awards.

As it is, the revue's comic songs work better than the medleys from such chestnuts as the original 1975 production of "Chicago" or the 1985 Jerry Herman revue, "Jerry's Girl" (yes, "Chita & All That Jazz" is a revue that reprises songs from another revue).

One of the most amusing comic numbers is "Pain," a song "Chicago's" Fred Ebb wrote for Rivera about a dancer's physical trials and deprivations ("banished from sweet Sara Lee, exiled from Pepperidge Farm"). Posing as a sadistic choreographer, Rivera puts two of her six male back-up dancers through a series of contortions, after which they are joined by the rest of the ensemble, all dancing with crutches.

These six -- Edgard Gallardo, Sean Martin Hingston, Sebastian Le Cause, Robert Montano, Richard Montoya and Ariel Stolier -- also perform a cute number of their own, "Little Do They Know," written by Ebb and his partner, John Kander, for Liza Minnelli's 1977 revue-like Broadway show, "The Act." Bemoaning being relegated to the background, the dancers show off some fancy leaps and pirouettes, only to be chased off stage when Rivera returns singing Herman's "So Long Dearie" and swatting them with her handbag.

Though "Chita & All That Jazz" includes lots of material by Kander and Ebb, the show pales in comparison to the imaginative staging that went into the songwriters' own revue, "The World Goes 'Round," which played the Mechanic Theatre five years ago.

When Rivera reprises Anita's "America" from "West Side Story," she appears in a dress similar to the one she wore in the show, and her ensemble dancers do steps modeled after those Jerome Robbins' choreographed for the Sharks and the Jets.

Later, when she sings the title song from "Spider Woman," she dons her character's black velvet cape, and, disappointingly for this agile dancer, sings the number with her feet virtually glued to the floor.

Rivera has been touring this show with an eye toward taking it to Broadway, and while it is a genuine pleasure to see this veteran hoofer kicking up a storm, the revue as a whole needs a considerable infusion of creativity. Right now, as a Broadway show, it's a heck of a nightclub act.

'Chita & All That Jazz'

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

When: 8 p.m. today through Saturday, 7: 30 p.m. Sunday; 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday

Tickets: $21-$42.50

Call: 410-752-1200

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