[Dixielandjazz] How a 74 year old performer stays loved.

Steve Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Nov 8 09:01:07 PST 2007

Not quite on topic, but surely fun to read how a 74 year old dancer
captivates her younger audiences. Like Lena Horne, Tony Bennett, and other
"young" oldsters, Chita Rivera knows how to stay relevant in spite of her
age. She "struts, shimmies, bumps, grinds, winks, rolls her eyes" . . .
Perhaps we might all do that in our own fashion, to ignite the mood?

Steve Barbone 

Music Review
ŒI Won¹t Dance¹? Just Try and Stop Her

NY TIMES - By STEPHEN HOLDEN - November 8, 2007

Chita Rivera has a gleam in her eye, a smirk on her lips and a bounce in her
step. That description could, of course, be applied to scads of other
entertainers purveying resilience and optimism. But Ms. Rivera¹s brand of
vivacity is qualitatively different from almost everyone else¹s, because it
emanates from deep within her.

That gleam and that smirk are not mannerisms cultivated in a show business
charm school, real or imagined. They¹re expressions of an innate joie de
vivre that in Ms. Rivera¹s new, untitled cabaret at Feinstein¹s at Loews
Regency ignites a mood that can only be described as collective happiness.
You leave this show walking on air.

About that bounce: At the beginning of the program Ms. Rivera sings ³I Won¹t
Dance,² emphasizing the words ³Why should I?² and ³How could I?² and
humorously implying that she is far too old to kick up her heels. Then,
almost immediately, she begins to move.

No, there are no high kicks. But as Ms. Rivera struts, shimmies, bumps,
grinds, winks, rolls her eyes and, in one number, disports herself with a
top hat and cane, you realize you are in the presence of a great
vaudevillian whose discipline of her taut 74-year-old body is so complete
that her mastery seems almost casual.

Ms. Rivera¹s physical and emotional vitality and her mischievous sense of
fun (the gleam and the smirk suggest she has a maniacally playful side that
enjoys breaking rules) dominate her material. If her voice is harsh and
weathered, it is never less than expressive, most notably at Tuesday¹s
opening-night performance in a rendition of the evening¹s show-stopping
ballad, ³Where Am I Going?² from ³Sweet Charity.²

Especially when singing songs by Cy Coleman and Kander and Ebb, the
sensibilities of the performer and the songwriters fuse, and Ms. Rivera
conveys a hard-boiled showbiz philosophy that might be termed tough love
with a silver lining. Her band (Carmel Dean on piano, Michael Croiter on
percussion and guitar, Jim Donica on bass) gives the songs a requisite kick
in the pants. 

Late in the show Ms. Rivera takes on James Taylor¹s sly, witty ³Secret O¹
Life² and turns it into a show business anthem in the Kander and Ebb mode. A
tentatively happy reflection on living in the moment becomes a song about
always showing your best face to the world (³And since we¹re only here for a
while/We might as well show some style²) and viewing the rough-and-tumble
ride from here to eternity as a supremely funny cosmic joke. That¹s called
joie de vivre. 

Chita Rivera continues through Nov. 24 at Feinstein¹s at Loews Regency, 540
Park Avenue, at 61st Street; NYC (212) 339-4095.

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