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Posts Tagged ‘“Threepenny Opera”’

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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Be sure to catch Luciana Faulhaber as “Fabiola” & Javier E. Gomez as “Georgie” in Jose Luis Ramos-Escobar’s “The Smell of Popcorn” at Teatro IATI (59-61 East 4th Street in NYC).

Through September 19, come watch the worlds of an acting student and career theif collide in this dark comedy about human connectedness and the multiple effects of urban crime upon daily life in “The Smell of Popcorn!”

Production Photo Credit: Michael Palma

Luciana Faulhaber as “Fabiola”

A native of Brazil, Luciana is an actress on the rise! She completed a two-year Meisner training with Bill Esper adn the LABryinth Theatre Master Class. Her theatrical credits include many Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway productions such as John Patrick Shanley’s new musical “The Monkey Show,” a staged reading with LAB theatre, “I rise in Flame Cried the Phoenix,” at TEEN 99, “Don’t hold the Doors” at Bleecker Street Theatre, “Seascape with Sharks” and “Dancer” at The Tank, “One” at Nic’s Spoon Theatre, Joleen in B.F.F. finalist at the From the Hip: Horror festival, “The Goose is Getting Fat” finalist of Kick IT! Festival, “Romeo and Juliet Together” and “Alive at Last!” at Long Beach Playhouse, CA. Her film credits include “The Winning Season,” “Una calle Sin Salida,” “Lottery Ticket,” and “The Last Samba.” Luciana has also been featured as a model for Guy Webster, MAC Cosmetics, and has a national AT&T commercial currently running. For much more on Luciana be sure to visit http://www.lucianafaulhaber.com.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? That’s a tough one. I guess in a twisted way my family did. I come from a traditional one and being an artist was never on top of my mother’s list for me. She wanted me to have a “real job” and live the safe life. I played the good girl role for a while but as they pushed me in that direction the need to act and break free grew stronger, until I did. I guess you can say I am a bit of a rebel.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? There are so many people I’d like to work with that it would be impossible to pick one. But I’ve had the chance to meet wonderful people in the past year that just make me see the world in a whole different level with their art: Sandra Werneck, John P. Shanley, Jose Rivera…I would be lucky to work with them not only cause they are so incredibly talented but because they are wonderful people and that is hard to find. Now if I had to pick another actor to work with, it would be Eli Wallach. He is a legend, sweet and just so adorable!

3. Do you have any rituals that you must do before a show? How do you decompress after a show? Every show is different for me. It really depends on what the character requires. “Fabiola” for example, needs to move to loud music, own the space and grow big before each performance. The only ritual that seems consistent is putting my make up on in the dressing room before every performance. I make sure to arrive at the theatre with an extra half hour, turn on a play list on my iPhone and play with the colors forgetting the world out there. That is the beginning of becoming a new character for me. Now to decompress I go for bike rides. I turn on my favorite sing along tunes, put my doggy Spike Lee in the basket, and just ride. The evenings are my favorite since the city is quieter and cooler. It just makes me happy.

4. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? Unfortunately this is a one way street for me. I can say I’ve been there and done that. I have tried other careers and life times. I can say with certainty that this is it.

5. Do you have any strange or unusual talent the no one knows about? Nothing I would proudly say in public. But I have one peculiar childhood obsession that grew into an amazing observant talent. I’ll tell you one of these days.

6. Favorite meal? Any meal cooked by my mom at home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The smell of the black beans being cooked or the rising cakes she bakes…it’s all just sweet like childhood and I miss it so much here in NY. But I had a chance to be hosted in Lebanon last year by my beautiful friend Sarah Himadeh and she made sure I tried everything. Since then I have been a huge fan of Lebanese food.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Dancing! That’s my meditation. But I don’t have a gym membership. I must say the reason I joined was the steam room, but I try to exercise regularly. Key word here being “try.”

8. Favorite skin care product? I am very concerned with what kind of products I use on my skin since it absorbs almost everything you put on it.  I really like “Kiss My Face” moisturizers. They are light in texture, all natural, smell great and give me an excuse to ask for some kisses. Couldn’t be better.

9. Favorite website? Imdb. I love movies and I want to do more film work from here on. So imdb helps me learn more about upcoming projects and the film industry even though it is not always up to date.

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman! I am all about female empowerment. I learned a lot about my own feminine power by playing “Fabiola” and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? I am not doing much sleeping these days…but I’d like to dream about people I am yet to know. Nothing like waking up looking forward to something new.

12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? “Whenever you don’t know what to do just smile. People will come to you. Everyone wants to talk to the happy person in the room.” This is advice I got from a girlfriend about dating but I apply it to just everything.

Javier E. Gomez as “Georgie”

Already an award-winning writer, Javier is an up and coming actor rising fast! He too is a graduate of the two-year Meisner program with Bill Esper. Recently, Javier appeared in “No Dogs Allowed” at the Atlantic Theatre Company. His other theatre credits include “My Favorite Year,” “Rock Horror Show,” Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure,” “Apathy: The Gen X Musical,” “Lorca Federico,” “Ruandi,” “Paper Boat: Hostos,” Sondheim’s “Passion,” “Threepenny Opera,” “The Wiz,” and “Man of La Mancha.” His film and TV credits include “Guiding Light, ” “Psychosis” (Padre David), a Sunday prime-time series for Telemundo directed by Sonia Valentin, “El Cantante” and “Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power.” Javier is also an award winning writer with works published by “El Diario/La Prensa” (the oldest Spanish language newspaper in the US), “El Nuevo Dia,” “Pie Derecho,” and “Reuter’s Dollars & Sense” magazine.

1. Who inspired you to become a performer? My main inspiration to become a performer was originally self-generated. It came from within me, at a very early age, and there was nothing I could do about it. It was just there. It was an inexplicable drive to perform, and awareness that performing was what I was meant to do. Along the way I have strengthen my inspiration through the encouragement of my family and a dear high school teacher, and the example and legacy of Eleonora Duse, the late actor Raul Juliá, Puerto Rican playwright Rene Marqués, Teatro del Sesenta Theater Collective in San Juan, and director Joseph Papp, among other artists whose work led me to aspire to the same level of commitment and excellence.

2. Who is the one person you haven’t worked with that you would like to? Hal Prince! LOL. Talk about a man whose vision has repeatedly changed the course of theater in this nation!

3. Do you have any rituals that you must do before a show? How do you decompress after a show? Before a show I try to be as relaxed as possible. I usually take some time alone to be in silence, and meditate, and check with myself. Then I go into a voice, movement, and body warm up routine that varies according to what show I am working on. In the case of “The Smell of Popcorn”, such an intense non-stop physical and emotional show, it involves Suzuki, Viewpoint, and military exercises, and beating a punching bag conveniently located inside the theater. After a show, my favorite way to decompress is going home to family for a quiet conversation, and a cup of cereal in cold milk. Except for “The Smell of Popcorn”. After that show I head straight to a bar near the theater for a cheeseburger and beer.

4. If you couldn’t be doing what you are doing now, what career would you choose? I would be Mayor, or Director of Tourism or Cultural Affairs for my hometown in Puerto Rico. I love public service, and I believe that I would be equally content making a contribution there.

5. Do you have any strange or unusual talent that nobody knows about? I have a remarkable ability to remember historical facts, dates, and names. I keep it to myself because the moment I express it in public, people think I am a freak.

6. Favorite meal? Tough choice. I am a huge exotic food junkie, so my favorite meal keeps changing as I discover more foods from around the world. At the moment I am obsessed with tripe soup from Wing Wong Restaurant in Chinatown. For dessert, nothing beats the Tres Leches (Triple Milk Dipped) Cake, Cuban style.

7. Favorite way to stay in shape? Weight lifting and cardiovascular training, combined with eating and sleeping well.

8. Favorite skin care product? Kiehl’s entire line of moisturizers for men.

9. Favorite website? nydailynews.com and nypost.com (Oh, come on! I have the courage to admit it!)

10. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman, of course!

BONUS QUESTIONS:

11. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My father, my grandparents, my great-aunt Tomasa, and all those people whom I adore but sadly passed away too soon in my life.

12. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? “Create your own circumstance. Don’t let circumstance create you” – Landmark Forum.

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