May 14, 2015


So I saw Chita Rivera in The Visit. How could I not--after seeing that slow, bewitching entrance she makes on the commercial for it with ruby and diamond jewelry set in a white dress coat sporting a cane? I try to see Chita whenever I can--though the bitch cancelled when I tried to see her in Edwin Drood. Only to find out that she only had a cameo in it towards the end. Look, she's one of the last classic Broadway gals of the Gwen Verdon ilk. She originated the role of the firebrand Anita in West Side Story on Broadway, fer chrissakes! Can I even call a puerto rican actress I adore a "firebrand" any more without being slammed by the politically correct that I'm stereotyping latina women as temperamental? Anyhoo, a starring vehicle with Madame Rivera can't be missed in my book.

It's a great story. Chita returns to a small town she grew up. She's fabulously wealthy after a long life as a very high class hooker. Brandishing a cane and a room full of luggage, she's returned to her old stomping grounds to exact revenge on the cruel townspeople who turned her into a whore. Half jewish and half gypsy, she'd been spurned at all ages but was run out of town after getting pregnant as a teen. The father had several townsmen testify in court that they'd all slept with her to avoid his clear paternity. And boy does Chita hold a grudge--she wants her ex-lover killed. And she's willing to pay a fortune to a town which has sunk deep into poverty since she left.

But after this chilling plot is set up, the show kinda of falls flat. Chita's still mesmerizing and I recommend seeing it for that reason alone. But the drama never develops. It does become darker as the townspeople plumb the depths of their souls to try and justify murdering the former paramour to snatch Chita's enormous ransom.

A pair of actor/dancers appear as Chita and her boyfriend's younger selves and reenact their smoking trysts. The actress playing the younger Chita flips her long, lustrous mane at the very beginning--in a way that would make any brazilian drag queen jealous. The lovers/dancers are a theatrical device which works, and something is needed against a well-done, but grey, industrial and unchanging set. A theatrical device which does not work is the use of yellow to pop out against the grey. The stacks of money they fondle are bright yellow. And once they've realized that things are looking up financially because of Chita, they don yellow shoes to hit the town in. It's clunky, but not as bad as the clunker of the song they perform to it all about yellow shoes. It's hard to believe, but none of the music is memorable. And it's written by Broadway legends Kander and Ebb! Yes, they who wrote All That Jazz and countless other memorable stand-out show tunes that even I know.

While flawed, I do recommend seeing it. I caught it with my maw, who after seeing several plays in one week told me "You saved the best for last." So Lady Becky loved it! I hope I haven't given too much away and I certainly don't consider myself to be a proper theater reviewer. But at least I ain't shrieking over politics for once!