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Posts Tagged ‘“Nine”’

Chita Rivera is a living legend and I’m thrilled and honored to have her as part of “Adaumbelle’s Quest.” I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to see Chita on Broadway in “Nine” and “Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life.”  Both experiences were special for different reasons. “Nine” was my very first time getting to see Chita live on stage and “Chita Rivera: A Dancer’s Life” allowed me to really learn about her life, which I found thrilling. I feel very fortunate to now have the opportunity to interview the one and only Chita Rivera!

An accomplished and versatile actress/singer/dancer, Chita Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and received seven additional Tony nominations. She recently starred in the Broadway and touring productions of The Dancer’s Life, a dazzling new musical celebrating her spectacular career, written by Terence McNally and directed by Graciela Daniele. Chita was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009. She received the coveted Kennedy Center Honor in Washington, DC in December, 2002, and is the first Hispanic ever chosen to receive this award.

On October 13, 2009, Chita released a new solo studio CD entitled AND NOW I SWING (Yellow Sound label), which pays homage to her stage legacy while also displaying her passion for jazz. From classic theater songs to jazz standards, all tracks featured on this new album have received new arrangements recorded by New York’s finest musicians, reimagining some of Chita’s favorite tunes.

This past Spring, Chita recreated her starring role in The Visit, the new Kander/Ebb/McNally musical at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, which originally premiered at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago in 2001. Her more recent stage appearances include starring roles in the revival of the musical Nine with Antonio Banderas on Broadway; The House of Bernarda Alba at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; Venecia, a new Argentinean play directed by Arthur Laurents at the George Street Playhouse; Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes at Paper Mill Playhouse. She also starred in the London, Las Vegas and Toronto productions of Chicago-The Musical.

For her starring role in Kiss of the Spider Woman on Broadway, Chita received the 1993 Tony Award as Best Leading Actress in a Musical, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Achievement as an Actress in a Musical, the Outer Critics Circle Award as Outstanding Actress in a Musical, the Drama League Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and The Astaire Award honoring outstanding achievement in Broadway Dance. Chita first played the role of the Spider Woman in the Toronto production of the show in 1992, receiving unanimous acclaim.  She then repeated her triumph in the fall of 1992 in the London production of Spider Woman, which won The Evening Standard Award as Best Musical of the Year. This was followed by the Broadway and touring productions.

Chita’s performing aspirations began with ballet training at the age of 11 in her native Washington, DC. Five years later, Chita moved to New York, where she auditioned for legendary choreographer George Balanchine. Balanchine of course recognized Chita’s talent and gave her a scholarship to the American School of Ballet, where she began taking classes at the same time as the dancers Edward Villella, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent and Maria Tallchief.

As an aspiring 17 year-old ballerina, Chita decided to accompany a friend to an audition for the chorus of Call Me Madam. Although she had no serious intention of pursuing a part in the show, Chita was cast as a principal dancer, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The ballet world’s loss was Broadway’s gain — a future legend’s theater career was born.

After completing a cross-country tour of Call Me Madam, Chita returned to New York to replace Onna White as a principal dancer in Guys and Dolls. Following Guys and Dolls, Chita joined the cast of the original Broadway company of Can-Can, in which her future co-star, Gwen Verdon, first achieved stardom.

Chita then went Off-Broadway to prove that she could do more than dance, doing so to great acclaim with her amazing performance in Ben Bagley’s Shoestring Revue, in which she did the very first Marilyn Monroe impersonation. Her co-stars in The Shoestring Revue included Beatrice Arthur and Arte Johnson.

Photo by Laura Marie Duncan

Chita then returned to Broadway as a featured performer in Seventh Heaven, choreographed by Peter Gennaro; and Mr. Wonderful, starring Sammy Davis, Jr.

But it was not until September 26, 1957 that Chita made the transition from accomplished Broadway performer to a toast of the town Broadway star with her electric performance as Anita in the Broadway premiere of West Side Story. Chita then took some time off for the birth of her daughter, Lisa. Chita had met and married Lisa’s father, dancer Tony Mordente, during the run of West Side Story.

Chita then went on to star in the London production of West Side Story, which had been postponed until Chita was ready to perform after Lisa’s birth. Chita’s New York success was repeated in London, and she stayed with the show there for a year. She then returned to Broadway to star as Rosie with Dick Van Dyke in the new musical, Bye Bye Birdie, in which she led the show-stopping number “Shriner’s Ballet.” Her rousing performance earned a Tony nomination as Best Actress. Chita then reprised her role in the London production of Bye Bye Birdie at Her Majesty’s Theatre, where she first achieved London stardom in West Side Story.

Back in the US, her triumphant performance as Jenny in the national tour of The Threepenny Opera, was soon followed by the title role in the national tour of Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity. Chita was also cast in the film version of Sweet Charity, in which she played Nicky opposite Shirley MacLaine. During the filming of Sweet Charity, Chita fell in love with Los Angeles and decided to make it her home for the next seven years.

But touring theatre successes often took her from home. She played Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday and Serafina in The Rose Tattoo; she toured opposite John Raitt in Zorba; and she extended her range in such productions as Kiss Me Kate, opposite Hal Linden,  Jacques Brel.…, and Oliver Hailey’s Father’s Day. All of these productions and other projects had kept Chita away from Broadway for eight years, far too long according to her friends and colleagues Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Bob Fosse. So they lured Chita back to New York to star as Velma Kelly, opposite Gwen Verdon, in their new musical, Chicago.

Photo by Walter McBride

But as soon as she arrived in New York, Chita discovered that Chicago‘s rehearsals had been postponed because director/choreographer Fosse was ill. It was then that Fred Ebb, who had written a highly-successful nightclub act for  Chita in the 60’s, went to work on another for her until Fosse recovered. She opened to rave reviews and capacity crowds.

Chicago opened to glorious reviews and Chita and Gwen Verdon were the toast of Broadway (1975). Both received Tony nominations as Best Actress. During the run of Chicago, Chita co-starred with Liza Minnelli for the first time, when Ms. Minnelli subbed for five weeks for an ailing Gwen Verdon.

Chita’s fourth and fifth Tony nominations as Best Actress came in the early 80’s with her performances opposite Donald O’Connor in Bring Back Birdie and then as the Evil Queen in Merlin, opposite Doug Henning. But it was not until 1984, when she re-united with Liza Minnelli in John Kander and Fred Ebb’s new musical, The Rink, that Chita finally won her Tony as Best Actress, along with the Drama Desk Award. Chita returned to Broadway again shortly after The Rink in Jerry’s Girls, co-starring with Leslie Uggams and Dorothy Loudon. In 1988, Chita toured the country (and Japan) in Can-Can, co-starring the Radio City Musical Hall Rockettes. In 2003 she received her sixth Tony nomination for Nine.

Chita’s critically-acclaimed concert dates continued to play to ovations from packed houses around the world in such cities as New York, London, Monte Carlo, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Toronto, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Cannes, Chicago and San Juan among many others.

Chita has been seen regularly on television, beginning with early appearances on every major show emanating from New York including Dinah Shore, Garry Moore, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett and Ed Sullivan. Other television credits include Will & Grace, Pippin (Showtime), Kennedy Center Tonight, Broadway Plays Washington, her own Chita Plus Three (HBO), The New Dick Van Dyke Show and Live From Wolftrap. Chita is also particularly proud of her participation in the National Theater of the Deaf’s presentation of The Road to Cordoba.

Photo by Laura Marie Duncan

Chita, who now lives in Westchester County, New York, names her daughter, singer/dancer/choreographer, Lisa Mordente, as her most treasured production.

On Thursday, February 17, you can catch Chita live on stage in a special edition of “Jim Caruso’s Cast Party” at Town Hall in New York City (123 West 43rd Street) as a special benefit for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS along with Christopher Sieber, Sally Mayes, Marilyn Maye, YouTube sensation “Miranda Sings,” jazz singer Hilary Kole, R&B tenor William Blake, jazz violinist Aaron Weinstein, Natalie Douglas, Klea Blackhurst, acrobat and comedian Rudi Macaggi, and the Dueling Fiddlers. For tickets, click here!

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? My mother Katherine.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Carlos Santana.

3. What do you get from performing in a concert that you don’t get from performing in a Broadway show? A more personal intimate relationship with the audience.

4. What’s your proudest moment? Receiving the Presidential Medal Of Freedom from President Barrack Obama, it was thrilling just to meet them.

5. Was there ever a time you thought about quitting? If so, what career would you have chosen? No, but if so, working with children around the world.

6. Favorite place to rehearse/practice for a show/concert on your own? Ripley Greer, 35th and 8th Ave.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Take class, and exercise with a fellow dancer.

8. Favorite skin care product? Leaf and Rusher skin care.

9. Favorite website? Don’t use a computer.

10.What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? ” Stay in your own lane, focus and enjoy your work, given by my dearest friend Fred Ebb.

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Su Thomas Hendrickson is another one of our next generation performers to watch as her star rises! She is just a senior at NYU’s CAP21 program, but already she has been winning audiences and critics over with her fine acting skills and powerful vocals including Tony Award Winner Sutton Foster. She was most recently seen in Tisch’s production of “Nine” and TNT’s “The Cradle Will Rock.” At midnight, on December 11, Su will be showcasing her vocals along with her fellow Tisch Drama Students, in “Crazy For Gershwin” at Joe’s Pub, under the direction of Sutton Foster.

1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Annie was the first show I saw on Broadway, and in the song “NYC” there’s “A Star To Be” solo which was sung by Sutton Foster at the time and the second I heard that part of the song, I knew that doing musical theatre had to be my life. I knew that it was my calling.

2. What’s the highest and lowest note you can sing? I don’t really know. I really try to hit all of them. I think I can sing lower than I actually can. In “Nine,” the lowest note I sang was E or F below middle C. As for the highest note, I don’t know, but I know I sing high enough.

3. Who’s the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Besides Meryl Streep, I’d love to work with my best friend, Trent Creswell, who is a playwright. He’s up at Sarah Lawrence right now and he’s incredible. He was at a writing fellowship this summer at Edward Albee’s barn in Montauk and I would love to collaborate with him on a show. I think that’s really my dream.

4. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? I have received a lot of advice along the way…one is from my high school improv teacher and every morning before we start, he would say “Jump In.” I say that to myself all the time in many different circumstances. I’m a naturally shy person, so if I just tell myself to “jump in” then I can figure it out from there. At CAP21, their motto there is “You are enough,” which I think is just beautiful and very helpful because it’s so easy to try to wanna be something else or try to be a better version of yourself, but you are the best version of yourself, you are enough. I just think that is beautiful.

5. Favorite place to rehearse on your own? Rehearsing singing, I like to get my note and then hop in the shower because I feel like my bathroom is pretty sound proof. If I’m running lines or lyrics, I used to rehearse with scene partners in Central Park or on the street places. Public places help me know how I would behave in public and it gives me a good spectrum of how to behave.

6. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? What do you order? We don’t have Dunkin’ Donuts in the South, so I’ve always sort of been a Starbucks person, but the longer I’ve been in New York, and by longer I mean the past 3 1/2 years, the longer my order has gotten. It went from being “Just a cup of coffee, thanks” to “Triple Grande Soy White Mocha.”

7. Favorite skin care product? Water. I’m not really a fussy kind of person.

8. Favorite kind of shoes? On or not on…hahaha…any kind of flats. I don’t really like heels, I like being close to the ground.

9. Favorite website? Your blog…hahaha…it’s xkcd.com. It’s a comic strip that is so smart. The guy that does it, used to work for NASA and he’s just this young, smart, and funny guy.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? I’m gonna have to go with Batman because I’ve never been much of a feminist and Superman kind of freaks me out…I mean, glasses, what kind of a disguise is that? Or Robin…he’s really cute. He’s just a kid that really wants impress somebody that he respects and he wants to do good and I like that about Robin. He’s going places.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I’m gonna say Erik Satie or Mozart because I’ve always had this “Back To The Future” kind of fantasy where I learn their entire canon and then go back to the past and play it for them and they’re like you’re a genius, come be my mistress. I feel the same way about Claude Monet, except I can’t really play him his paintings and I can’t really duplicate them and say “Look at this, you should do one.”

12. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I think everyone knows my strange and unusual talents, but I can close/plug up my nose.

13. Favorite way to stay in shape? I like to go to “Yoga to the People” and I like to jog in the real world, but what I’ve been doing lately is going to this thing called “Boogie Box” with my “Nine” costar Gillian Munsayac who played “Carla.” “Boogie Box” is like an aerobic dance class that is a combination between kick boxing and latin dancing. It’s basically an hour of non-stop jumping around, kickboxing, and dancing, with maybe 2 minutes of break and it’s so intense. It’s the kind of thing you think you are going to pass out 3/4 of the way in and then you do pass out, but you’ve realized you’ve done the whole thing. If you are familiar with “Zumba” it’s like “Zumba” on crack.

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It’s pretty amazing to be sitting at show literally watching the next generation performing before your eyes. That is exactly how I felt tonight when I saw “Nine” at Tisch School for the Arts Produced by Micky Chorny, Directed by Shanna Richey, and Choreography by Katie Hill.

“Nine” tells the story of filmmaker “Guido Contini’s” struggle with his creative process as he looks for artistic inspiration to make his next movie while walking the fine line between his reality and his art.

Starring fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Zachary Infante as “Little Guido” along with Noah Shalom as “Guido Contini,” Su Hendrickson as “Luisa Contini,” Gillian Munsayac as “Carla Albanese,” Rachel Duddy as “Claudia Nardi,” Christina King as “Guido’s Mother,” Amanda Savan as “Lilliane La Fleur,” Gina Salvia as “Stephanie Necrophorus,” Mariel Blatt as “Sarraghina,” Sara Tazari as “Our Lady of the Spa,” Melissa Lehman as “Diana/British Reporter,” Molly Blodgett as “Maria/German Reporter,” Tiger Brown as “Annabella/American Reporter/Dance Captain,” Charlie Kolarich as “Francesco/American Reporter/Dance Captain,” Ricky Saunders as “Renato/British Reporter,” and Traver Tischio as “Giulio/Cardinal/German Reporter.”

I am a big fan of this show, especially the music. Watching these students was pretty amazing because I kept thinking, one of these performers could be the star of a future Broadway production. One just never knows. The cast’s chemistry was great and everyone worked well together! Hitting all the right notes, Noah Shalom was able lead the show as “Guido” while Zachary Infante shined as “Little Guido,” particularly his body language and facial expressions which he need to rely on heavily. When Zachary sang, the audience was more than focused! Su Hendrickson was perfectly cast as “Luisa” using her big booming voice to really communicate the betrayal she felt from “Guido.” She commanded the stage during “Be On Your Own.”  Rachel Duddy did a great job with “Unusual Way” as “Claudia,” while Christina King really hit the high notes as “Guido’s Mother.” Amanda Savan gave quite a performance as “Lilliane La Fleur,” especially during “Follies Bergeres,” which garnered her quite the round of applause. Mariel Blatt made her mark as “Sarraghina” during her triumphant “Ti Voglio Bene/Be Italian.” While I’m only highlighting a few of the cast members, everyone really did a great job and when this cast dances all together, boy do they shine!

With a very limited run and wait-list for tickets, do try to catch “Nine” at Tisch School for the Arts The Shop Theater (721 Broadway, 2nd Floor) through this Saturday, October 30.

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Catch fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Zachary Infante in “Nine” the musical at Tisch School for the Arts (721 Broadway) from October 26 – October 30, playing “Little Guido.”

Come see this rising star live on stage…

For tickets send an e-mail to 9boxoffice@gmail.com. There is a $5 donation at the door when you pick-up your tickets.

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If you’re looking for an album to lose yourself in, then I’d suggest picking up Jane Krakowski’s “The Laziest Gal In Town,” recorded at her 2009 Feinstein’s at the Regency cabaret debut. This live recording feels as if you’ve been whisked out of your seat and transported to Feinstein’s at the Regency, one of the most intimate and personable nightclubs in New York City.

With a beautiful voice and controlled belt, Jane knows how to deliver a tune and interact with the audience using her humor, sensuality, and sultriness at just the right moments. “The Laziest Gal In Town,” “I’m Old Fashioned/Old Fashioned Girl,” and “Let’s Face The Music And Dance” allow Jane’s pristine voice to sparkle. Bringing out her more humorous/fun side are the tunes “A Little Brains, A Little Talent,” “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend,” “When I Get Low I Get High/Wacky Dust,” “Rubber Duckie,” and “Tweet,” a song written specifically for Jane by Scott Whitman and fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participant Marc Shaiman to the tune of “Zip” from “Pal Joey.” Jane sings about the infusion of twitter into everyday life along with announcing the latest celebrity headlines that were taking place during the time of recording. “An Englishman Needs Time,”  “My Handy Man,” and “Thirteen Men” brings out Jane sultriness & sensuality.

Far from being “The Laziest Gal In Town,” Jane has entertained audiences on such hit television shows as “Ally McBeal” and “30 Rock” as well as on stage “Guys and Dolls,” the 2003 Broadway revival of “Nine” (for which she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Muscial) and at Encores! “Damn Yankees” (which starred Cheyenne Jackson). Now would be the perfect time to expand your love for Jane Krakowski and purchase “The Laziest Gal In Town.” Both relaxing and upbeat, this feel good album is one for your collection.

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Deidre Goodwin is constantly working, whether it’s theatre, movies, or television. She has appeared in eight Broadway shows including “Chicago” as “Velma Kelly,” the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line” as “Sheila,” “Nine” with Antonia Banderas, as “Our Lady of The Spa,” “The Boys From Syracuse,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “The Rocky Horror Show,” “Chita Rivera: A Dancers Life,” and “Never Gonna Dance.” This past summer Deidre starred in the Fringe Festival hit show “Vote!” She has also delighted audiences in such motion pictures as the current smash hit “It’s Complicated” (starring Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin), as well as the Oscar-winning film version of “Chicago” as “Murderess June” “Every Little Step,” (which chronicles the history of the Broadway show “A Chorus Line” as well as the audition process for the 2006 revival), “Half Nelson,” and “Across the  Universe.” Her upcoming film projects include “Fair Game” and “Rabbit Hole.” Deidre’s television credits include guest starring roles on “30 Rock” (she played DeBORah, the winner of the MILF Island episode), “Law & Order: SVU,” “Rescue Me,” “Life on Mars,” and “Dancing With The Stars.” She also appeared on “Conan O’Brien,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show,” “The View,” “Good Morning America,” and three times on “The Tony Awards” telecast. Deidre can currently be seen as “Velma Kelly” in the Tony Award Winning Revival of “Chicago” at the Ambassador Theatre on 49th Street (between Broadway and 8th Avenue) in New York City.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? Since I didn’t start until I was older it was a mixture of all of the old movie musicals I would watch as a kid, Fame and the first time I saw Paula Kelly definitely put an idea in my head that this could be possible.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? I have been very blessed to work with some amazing people. Legends, famous people and extremely talented people. If there was one person, it would be Carol Burnett.

3. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? Not really…

4. What has been your best and worst experience in a show? Best, first time on Broadway, climbing the wall in Rocky Horror and the rotating spiral staircase at the end of Nine, are a few of the highlights. Don’t really have a worst but embarrassing. I have fallen twice on a Broadway stage. Both curtain calls. Way to leave a last impression!

5. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Did have a dream a few nights ago that Hugh Jackman was trying to kiss me by offering me a piece of gum then putting in his mouth a la “Lady and the Tramp” style. Nice huh 🙂

6. Favorite meal? Cheese.

7. Favorite TV show? Way too many. Should really cut back on my tv. My favorites right now are Mad Men and Lost.

8. Favorite musician/singer? There are way too may of those too but my old stand by is ahh oh wa! Prince.

9. Favorite website? Don’t have one.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Batman

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Photo Credit: Kirsty Furg

I had the pleasure of personally interviewing Leigh Ann Larkin during the Abingdon Theatre’s “Marathon ’33” benefit back in October. In person, Leigh Ann radiates kindness and joy with an energy that shines as bright as the sun. On Broadway she has starred as “Dainty June” in the Tony Award winning revival of “Gypsy” starring Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and Laura Benanti, while Off-Broadway, she starred in “The Yellow Wood.” Leigh-Ann has toured with country in Walt Disney’s “On The Record” (which also starred fellow “Adaubmelle’s Quest” participant Andy Karl) and has been seen regionally at the Pittsburgh Musical Theatre (“Belle” in “Beauty and the Beast”), Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (“Deborah Sue” in “Bye, Bye, Birdie”), West Virginia Public Theatre (as “Emma” in “Jekyll & Hyde,” “Lily” in “The Secret Garden,” and “Liesl” in “The Soud of Music”), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Featured Dancer in “Where’s Charlie”), and at the Cincinnati Conservatory (“Claudia” in “Nine” & “Jen” in “Jon & Jen”). Her TV roles include “Lipstick Jungle,” “The Flight of the Concords,” and recurring roles on “Guiding Light” & “All My Children.” Currently, Leigh Ann can been seen back on Broadway in the revival of “A Little Night Music” starring Angela Lansbury & Catherine Zeta-Jones. For more on Leigh Ann Larkin visit: http://www.leighannlarkin.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? Patti LuPone and my mother who got me started and was very supportive.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? Low E, high C, and high E. I’m working on high E flat.

3. What has been your most embarrassing on-stage moment? When I punched a hole through the train in “Gypsy.”

4. Out of all the people you have worked with, who did you learn the most from? Arthur Laurents.

5. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Meryl Streep and Mary Louise Parker.

6. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I’ve got a “green” thumb–love to garden.

7. Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts? What do you order? Starbucks. one pump of soymilk in a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

8. Favorite skin care product? I’m an organic girl. I love Alba moisturizer and face wash. Actually, I love all their products.

9. Favorite website? http://www.steelers.com/ (Pittsburgh Baby!)

10. “Saved By The Bell” or “Beverly Hills 90210”? “Saved By The Bell.”

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