NEW YORK (AP) — Even when she should be relaxing, Chita Rivera just can’t.
Currently starring in the ensemble musical “The Mystery Of Edwin Drood,” the two-time Tony Award-winning singer, dancer and actress spends some time backstage during the show in her dressing room — and isn’t used to it.
“I play solitaire. I read. I’m thinking of doing needlepoint,” she says with a big laugh. “In my DNA, I’m a dancer and we don’t sit still. It’s just a different formula. I’m loving it. But it’s different.”
Rivera has to share the spotlight with a zany cast that includes Stephanie J. Block, Will Chase, Gregg Edelman, Jim Norton, Jessie Mueller and Andy Karl. Everyone is having so much fun that the show is slowly getting a little longer every night as the cast overacts deliciously.
Rivera, making her first return to Broadway since her musical “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life” landed in 2005, gets the biggest applause. She plays Princess Puffer, a brothel owner, and sings several songs, including “The Wages of Sin.”
In the new show — written by Rupert Holmes and inspired by the unfinished novel of the same name by Charles Dickens — the audience is called on to weigh in on resolutions to the story, either by a show of hands or clapping. The customers decide what is a mysterious detective’s real identity, who the murderer is at the heart of the play, and which couple from among the cast should fall in love.
For the cast, that means memorizing multiple endings and quickly being able to shift into the new role. “I just want to be the lover,” says Rivera, and she usually is.
Rivera originated some of theater’s most memorable roles, including Anita in 1957′s “West Side Story,” Rose in 1960′s “Bye Bye Birdie,” Velma in 1975′s “Chicago” and the title role in 1993′s “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” the second of her two Tony wins. She still hopes that a lost Fred Ebb and John Kander musical that she champions, “The Visit,” will make it to Broadway.
Early next year she hits 80, but Rivera — still sexy, still vibrant, always funny — hates thinking about it and refuses to acknowledge the number. This is a woman, after all, who clambered back on stage to dance in 1988 after being in an almost fatal car accident two years earlier that crushed her right leg and required 12 screws to fix.
Even Superstorm Sandy couldn’t stop her. She rode out the storm in her upstate New York home near Nyack with her dogs and her daughter, choreographer and singer Lisa Mordente. They had no power for 11 days and stood in line for gas.
“The lesson I got from this is: generator,” she says.
The Associated Press sat down with Rivera to talk about the show, her birthday and if heat really rises.
AP: Everyone in the cast seems to be having so much fun onstage. Are you really?
Rivera: Oh, we are. We really are. But I believe there’s a danger. Timing is everything. Shape and form is everything. The word is everything. And there has got to be control. When you give a bunch of actors that kind of freedom, you’ve got to look at that, because it’s starting to stretch a little bit already. There is a freedom that’s delicious, but there’s also a danger.
AP: Is it strange performing in a show where the ending is up in the air?
Rivera: I love the fact that the audience is involved, even though I’m from the old school — I do like having a beginning, a middle and an end. You know what you’re doing. In this, when I get offstage and they tell me I’m the murderer, I have to quickly go over the lines again. And that means I’m not the lover since nobody can be the lover if you’re the murderer.
AP: How did you fare with no electricity after Sandy?
Rivera: It was so cold and terribly dark. We tried it for a few days. And I moved around from bedroom to bedroom to see if heat really does rise and how long it stays.
AP: And the answer?
Rivera: It’s cold.
AP: You’ve been touring for these past few years. How has the theater scene changed?
Rivera: I don’t think we have enough original musicals. I really don’t. I know I’m being old fashioned but the theater is the place where music, lyrics, words, scenery and stories come together. And I’ve been blessed enough to have done several shows when they really did. They take you places and they’re daring. That’s what we need.
AP: You are approaching a rather important birthday. How does that feel?
Rivera: Age just seems, to me, ridiculous, because I’m blessed. I’m lucky. I’m doing what I love to do. I still can. And I have the sense to know what I can’t do and what I should do.
Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
More Related Stories
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- HLN: Jodi Arias "pleading for her life" got us a ratings win!
- Michael Ian Black on Maron feud: He "considered me a poseur"
- Chekhov's story mirrors Russia's own
- Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina denied parole
- Joe Francis apologizes for calling jury "retarded"
- Mary Karr: David Foster Wallace and I kept each other alive
- Morgan Freeman sleeps during televised interview
- J.J. Abrams reveals deleted shower scene with Benedict Cumberbatch
- Is the anti-gay backlash on?
- Paul McCartney backs Pussy Riot
- Cannes: Ryan Gosling's new movie draws the boo-birds
- Radio host tweets rape joke, blames journalists for reporting on it
- Juror responds to Joe Francis' insults with thoughtful email
- New track from the Lonely Island features Solange Knowles, semicolons
- Amazon introduces fan fiction publishing platform
- Naomi Watts, "Argo," "Wonderstone" among bizarre Teen Choice Awards nominees
- Imprisoned Pussy Riot member declares hunger strike
- The camp-free "Behind the Candelabra"
- Justin Bieber will destroy you if you live-tweet his parties
- Marc Maron on Twitter feud with Michael Ian Black: "We have an understanding"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11