Chita Rivera has legs, all right — at 64 years old she looks splendidly fit, belying a Broadway history stretching nearly five decades. Still, this star-vehicle revue will require considerable reworking before a planned Broadway run.
Conceived by her frequent lyricist Fred Ebb, the show is low on clever verbal intros and colorful anecdotes, taking its time getting to the expected career highlights. Indeed, the whole first half seems a sort of in-progress cabaret act, with too much rock/R&B material that ill fits a voice best suited to book “character” songs.
Rivera’s comic chops remain alert, as mined by several amusing ideas: a fumbling “Makin’ Whoopee”; adversarial badinage with her six chorus-boytoys, culminating in a gender duel over songs that can be sung only by men or women; and the mock-operatic “Figaro.” But the fun is fairly mild in execution.
After intermission the show gets down to business, as Rivera reprises the jewels of her repertoire: “Big Spender” and “Something Better” from “Sweet Charity,” “All That Jazz” from “Chicago,” several tunes from “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Though hardly representing the best Kander & Ebb music here, latter’s title song lends Rivera her requisite show-stopper.
Her 1957 Broadway breakthrough is rather awkwardly couched in a condensed “West Side Story” run-through complete with a pared-down rape scene.
Under Alan Johnson’s direction, the show seems to be waiting for an urgent binding concept. David Agress’ lighting is attractive, ditto Pete Menefee’s costumes (the exception being a hairy-looking floor-length fringe skirt that is soon shed to reveal those ageless gams). Mark Hummel’s arrangements tend toward the brassy.
Rivera’s vivacity, versatility and sizzling dance prowess have long been prized above her decent vocal skills, and she’s still game, trim and glamorously garbed (with frequent costume changes). But outsize star magnetism would be required to leap past such a rote setting, and that isn’t her stock in trade. Merely serviceable choreography echoes moves by Fosse, Robbins and others that once heated Rivera’s stage presence to the boiling point.