Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Carol & Chita"

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


Reviews of Current Productions


entire contents copyright 1997 by Larry Stark


"Carol Channing
&
Chita Rivera"

FOR CAROL CHANNING
Musical Director Robert Wendel
Drummer Perry Cavari
Special Choreography by Honi Coles
Wardrobe Design by Bob Mackie
Special Continuity by George Burns

FOR CHITA RIVERA
Writer & Director Fred Ebb
Musical Director Greg Dlugos
Drummer Kory Grossman
Choreographers:
Chris Chadman, Wayne Cilento,
Ron Field, Chet Walker,
Lisa Mordente
Dancers:
Richard Amaro
Lloyd Culbreath
Richard Montoya

Alto sax, flute, clarinet.................Bill Carmichael
Tenor sax, flute, clarinet....................Tony Carelli
Tenor sax, clarinet..............................Rod Ferland
Baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet...Jerry Vejmola
Trumpet....................................................Jay Daly
Trumpet....................................................Pat Stout
Trombone...........................................Rick Stepton
Keyboard............................................Kim Steiner
Bass....................................................Barry Smith
Guitar, banjo.....................................Jon Wheatley
Percussion.....................................Mark Worgatfik


Give either one of them an audience, and you'll see a show. Give both of them an audience, and the show will get standing ovations. And that's true whether it's a noon press-luncheon --- where these hastily jotted quasi-quotations were collected --- or the 8 p m production on the huge round North Shore Music Theatre stage.. These ladies give an audience what they love to see and hear.

CAROL:

"What's the secret of my success?
Why, the roles I got to play! The People I got to work with!
Writers and directors and choreographers and musicians and dancers and actors!
And all those audiences telling me I was good or bad!"


She has been playing the role of Carol Channing so long it has become an act. It's an amalgam of wide-eyed eager innocence, outspoken honesty, hearty self-spoof, a total disregard of time's effect on wind and voice and time-steps, and the awareness that standing on a stage or a streetcorner she will always be the center of adoring attention.

Her hour at the top half of the show is full of familiar star-turn songs done in-one --- ones she invented, and then played for thousands of performances. But she also sings three songs in saucily incomprehensible languages she insists she used to auditioned with as a Bennington "Drahmah & Deance" major, a few years back. She changes frequently into more and more flamboyant costumes with more and more outrageous hats. Her wide red smile and sheer enthusiasm sell songs every nuance of which are part of theater history and she cannot resist shaking a hand or two on the way on or off stage.

CHITA:

"What would I tell a student interested in theater?
"Listen! Listen to everyone. That's what keeps you growing as an actor.
That's how you learn. You're always a student. You never know enough, and all the experience of your life always goes right into your next role."

Although Chita Rivera sings powerfully and expressively she is first and formost a dancer. Most of her hour on the stage is with a trio of partners --- Richard Amaro, Lloyd Culbeath, and Richard Montoya --- moving. She credits five different choreographers, including her own daughter Lisa Morante, and as she moves through a medley of past triumphs the movement patterns stamped on each show are clearly defined. The highlights she selected from "West Side Story" --- from dancing "Puerto Rico" to singing "There's A Place For Us" --- makes a perfect precis of its plot and its message.

CAROL:

"I've been so sick I've said to myself 'I'm just going out on that stage and drop dead, and then everyone will feel sorry for me!' But then, out there with the cast and that audience giving back all that energy, my own problems just disappeared."


She drops microphones, dives toward wrong exits, defiantly belts out the approximate honking notes, sprays the stage with "diamonds" and radiant charm. The flick of a wrist at a precise, predictable moment for the five thousandth time still brings audiences to their feet.

CHITA:

"You're not in it alone. You're never alone on the theater. There are a lot of people involved in making a show, and they all teach you something. Even the people who did the role before you are right there with you.


As Carol pointed out, "Chita has done straight plays, where she never even bent a toe!" and there's an interplay of dramatic characters in the mixture of spoken word, song, and pure dance that she has put together. She gives her male support-team a number by themselves wherein they lament that "we do this (unison flight of acrobatic elan) and she does that (flex of finger, flip of the head) but She gets all the applause!" and then she lectures them about stardom and experience. The material she reprises has a range and variety that makes simple star turns impossible.

CAROL:

"It was Bob Mackie's costume that made "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" work. When he covered me in diamonds that song came alive! He gave me ear-rings that glittered all the way down to the floor. I sparkle so much that there are little snowballs of reflections on the wall behind me, and everything comes together."


CHITA:

"There is no favorite role. Every one of them is a part of me, always will be."


CAROL:

"In the process of making a new show, there's always a point where everything collapses, when nothing's working, nothing goes right, and everyone's ready to quit. But you've got to get past that, stick with it. And the shows that result from that become immortal."


CHITA:

"A director or a choreographer is working toward an entire show, putting all the pieces together. But the people who first breathe life into those characters put a personal stamp on them that you tamper with at your peril. When I've taken over a role I've made it my own, but I always want a very good reason, not a selfish reason, for tampering with what's gone before."


Chita said "The two of us are as different as night and day," and their shows reflect these differences. They work the audience in different ways, display different strengths and tastes and abilities, reflect different styles. Between the two, they serve up a survey of musical theater styles across the past fifty years.

CAROL:

"I learned when I was touring that there are some people who don't know they can respond to a show. But I love people who stand up and holler and scream when they like something, or when they don't like something! They're great."


CHITA:

"The breathing of the audience is what's thrilling about theater. It's what makes you and the show come alive. I've been here at North Shore Music Theater five times already, and these are very intelligent audiences. They let you know when they're with you and when they're not. They're great."


Give either one of them an audience, and you'll see a show. Give both of them an audience, and the show will get standing ovations. These ladies give an audience what they love to see and hear.

Love,
===Anon.
(a k a Larry Stark)

"Carol Channing & Chita Rivera" (till 19 July)
NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE
62 Dunham Road, BEVERLY
1(617)922-8500
Check their web site

THE THEATER MIRROR, Boston's LIVE Theater Guide

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