Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Dance Party: That Aspirin From United Drug

The star of this week's Dance Party is going to need some of that aspirin.
Chita Rivera turned 80 this week, on a two-show day.  Her cast surprised her with cake at the curtain call.

Rivera has turned her current supporting
role in Edwin Drood into a star part.

The old gal is still kicking, though perhaps not as high, as she is finishing up a limited run in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  Expect her 10th Tony nomination to be announced later this spring.

Chita is on my radar this week for another reason, in addition to her birthday.  She was the star attraction at one of the myriad inaugural events which peppered the DC landscape last weekend. 
Don't recognize this dude? He played the geeky
foreigner with the indeterminable accent on
That 70s Show, now all hunky and grown up.

The event was a celebration of President Obama's contributions to the American Latino community, and was held at the Kennedy Center.  The Big Guy did not attend (though VP Joe Biden did), but that did not damper the enthusiasm of the Latino stars who took the stage.  Eva Longoria both hosted and produced the affair, which included appearances by Jose Feliciano, Broadway's Raul Esparza, and singer Marc Anthony.
Mario Lopez also appeared at the event.
He was quite presentable in his tux.
But why hire Mario Lopez for a gig
which requires him to be fully clothed?

The centerpiece of the show, in my humble opinion, was the duet performed by those duelling Anitas, Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno.  Everybody knows, of course, that Chita created the role of firecracker Anita in West Side Story, only to lose the role to Rita for the film.  Rita won the Oscar and went on to a pretty illustrious career which included a Tony, Emmy, and Grammy. 

Our Chita received the Kennedy Center Honor
in 2002, along with James Earl Jones,
Paul Simon, and Elizabeth Taylor. In 2009, she
also won the Presidential Medal of Freedom,
along with Sandra Day O'Connor,
Stephen Hawking, and Harvey Milk.

Our Chita remained, for the most part, on stage, creating many memorable roles and winning several Tonys. 
The announcer of last week's event proclaimed that it was the first time Rita Moreno and Chita Rivera had ever performed together.  Not so.  They helped Bette Midler open the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health in  November of 2002.
I did not attend the Latins Love Obama concert, but it was streamed live on Univision's website.  My Internet connection is pretty lousy at my DC Branch, so the picture quality was poor, and because Univision is the Spanish network, all the narration was in that language.  I would not even have known about this event had it not been for a couple of my young buddies in the DC theatre community, who were chosen to be part of the backup singer/dancers for the Chita/Rita Show. 
The Latina Bosom Buddies were backed up by a male chorus which proved more limber and more on-key than our stars.  The first two guys from left to right are the lovely and talented Kurt Boehm and Vinny Kempski, who played two of my sons in Joe's Coat several years ago.
Neither of the old broads moved all that much, and Rita in particular was croaking her notes, but nobody cared.
There was a supposed rivalry between Chita and Rita throughout their careers, but I never found any evidence of it.  These Latina Grande Dames were the hit of their inaugural party.
Rita has appeared twice on the Dance Party, as West Side Story has provided two clips (so far).  Go here for the Dance At The Gym, and here for some rooftop shenanigans.  Rivera has danced only once in these pages, back when Tom Bosley died. Surely it's Chita's turn again.  This particular clip comes from  some concert or other, and our heroine, though clearly middle aged, is still at the top of her game.  She's singing two of the songs she originally introduced.  Happy birthday, Chita!