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Posts Tagged ‘“Sweet Charity”’

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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Manuel Herrera is an actor on the rise! His Broadway credits include “West Side Story,” “Legally Blonde,” “Sweet Charity,” “Wicked,” and “The Music Man.” Off-Broadway, Manuel has been seen in “The Seven” while film audiences have seen him in “Sex and the City 2” as “Sergio.” Manuel’s numerous commercial work includes Mohegan Sun, Joe Boxer, Winterfresh Gum, Mervyns, and Optimum Online. Now Manuel can be seen starring alongside Eve Plumb (the original “Jan Brady”) in the hilarious new musical comedy “Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating, and Marriage!” at Sofia’s Downstairs Theatre in NYC (221 West 46th Street, between Broadway and & 8th Ave).

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? I would have to say %100 Michael Jackson.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Wow, thats hard!! I guess, I would have to say Joe Mantello. I know I’ve worked with him before, but I’ve never worked with him on a play, and that’s what I would really want to do.

3. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? Probably real-estate, I really enjoy it. I think I would be more of a flipper, than a realtor though.

4. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I haven’t done it in a while, but I guess I would have to say drawing. When I was younger I won an award at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, for a drawing that I did.

5. Favorite meal off the $1 menu? I’m not a big fast food person anymore, but if I were gonna do it I would get Chicken McNuggets!!

6. Favorite skin care product? I really like that Anthony’s skin care line for men. Especially the after shave in-grown hair cream.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Going to the gym, and doing the Body-For-Life routine mixed with interval training cardio exercises, and throwing in different things I see in Mens Health.

8. Boxers or Briefs? Calvin Klein briefs for sure.

9. Favorite website? Probably Petfinder.com, and of course missabigailsguide.com!!!

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Superman! 1. Because, I don’t know much about Wonder Woman, and B. Because, I’ve always wanted to look like a muscle man.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? “Be in the moment” (That’s for all facets of life. It’s not just an acting thing).

12. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I’m lucky because she sleeps with me every night, I don’t have to dream. My Wife!!!

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Singer, dancer, actor, and visionary are just a few words that describe LaQuet Sharnell, a performer who’s light is getting brighter. Beginning at age 14, LaQuet studied dance in her hometown of Dallas, TX at the Booker T. Washington HSPVA, The Dallas Powerhouse of Dance, and The Centre for Dance learning ballet, modern, African, compositional studies, jazz, lyrical, hip-hop, and contemporary.  After graduation from high school, LaQuet went on to study at the North Carolina School for the Arts and has been performing ever since. Her credits include Broadway’s “The Lion King” and “Sweet Charity,” regional productions of “Candide,” (New York State Theatre), “Chicago” (Riverside Theatre), “AIDA” (St. Louis MUNY), “Ain’t Misbeahvin'” (Gateway Playhouse), “Princess-A New Musical” (Goodspeed Opera House), “A Chorus Line” (Piano Repertory Theatre), “Nights on Broadway III” (Caesars Palace: Atlantic City), and “Footloose” (Carousel Dinner Theatre). Her television and film credits include “As The World Turns” and “Step Up 3-D” (which is currently in post-production). In addition to performing, LaQuet teaches master classes around the country in jazz, theater, lyrical, modern dance, vocal technique, and acting workshops, allowing students to learn from a true working professional. As a visionary, LaQuet is the founder of STEP Theater Company, a non-profit organization set out to bridge the gap between what is commonly seen in theater and dance companies with a collaborative work environment of Musical Theater artist. Their first production was a reading of Trey Tatum, Andrew Turtletaub, David Alpert, & Bobby Cronin’s work-in-progress “Caty Bridgewater.” Currently, LaQuet can be found dancing and singing up a storm in the Broadway smash hit “Memphis” (along with fellow “Adaumbelle’s Quest” participants Chad Kimball, Derrick Baskin, and James Monroe Iglehart). For more on LaQuet, be sure to check out www.laquetsharnell.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? I would have to say that I was most inspired by the movie “A Chorus Line.” The “Bebe” character made such an impact on me. Also “The Lion King!” When I saw the show I knew that I could be on Broadway and become a concert dancer. The show made me feel like a I could do anything. Even still to this day when I see the movie and after doing “The Lion King” it makes me dream of the impossible and then it makes me want to accomplish the impossible.

2. What is the highest and lowest note you can sing? Highest note F (all the time in my sleep) and a G on a super great day when the plants are aligned. Low note D.

3. What is your proudest moment? My proudest moment would have to be when we opened “Memphis The Musical” on Broadway!! Also when the first show for STEP Theater was complete! Both moments made me feel as though I could conquer the world.

4. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? I would love to work with Mia Michaels! She is the the most talented woman I have ever seen. I use take her class and after every class I would want to cry with all amazing-ness that she would give the class.

5. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that no one knows about? I can play the french horn. Most people think it’s a dorky instrument but I think its just the most amazing instrument. Also, I’m the most decorated African American cheerleader in the country.

6. Favorite way to stay in shape? Taking as many classes as humanly possible and Bikram Yoga.

7. Favorite skin care product? Anything Neutrogena.

8. Favorite play/musical? “A Chorus Line” and “The Wiz.”

9. Favorite website? steptheatercompany.com and facebook.com.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman, mostly cause her boobs look so freaking hot in that costume.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My Girlfriend, Lauren Pringle.

12. Who do you consider to be your hero? Adonis Thompson, Sumatra Thompson, and Doris Jean Evans.

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