The Broadway Concert Series presented by Mark Cortale returns to The Parker in late January. The series, co-presented by the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, delivers three intimate evenings of incredible music and hilarious conversations hosted and music directed by Sirius XM Radio star Seth Rudetsky, whom the New York Times dubbed “The Mayor of Broadway.” The series features three of Broadway’s most critically acclaimed, award-winning, powerhouse talents: Living legend Chita Rivera, the two-time Tony Award winner who originated the Broadway roles of Anita in West Side Story, Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma in Chicago, and appeared in the original casts of Guys and Dolls, Can Can, Jerry’s Girls and many others, makes her Parker series debut on January 29. Ramin Karimloo, currently starring as Nicky Arnstein opposite Lea Michele in the smash hit Broadway revival of Funny Girl and Tony Award nominated as Valjean in the recent Broadway revival of Les Misérables, makes his Parker series debut on February 26; and Jessie Mueller, Tony Award winner for her starring role as Carole King in Beautiful-The Carole King Musical, and Tony-nominated for Carousel on Broadway and for composer-lyricist Sara Bareilles’ hit Broadway musical Waitress on Broadway, making her Parker series bow on March 18.
Growing up in NYC, I personally got the Broadway itch in my teenage years and was rubbing my pennies together to see as many shows as I could possibly see. So you can imagine how Fan-Girling I was to interview the icon herself: Chita Rivera.
You are turning 90 in a few days; do you have any big plans for your birthday?
I have no idea what is happening, and I really didn’t want to plan anything, but there were too many people involved that said I had to celebrate. All I know is I must ready and dressed.
You started in the entertainment industry as a ballet dancer, how did that happen and when did you move into acting?
I broke all the furniture in my home, so my mother put me in ballet school, and from that I won a scholarship to NYC ballet. While I was there a girl asked me to go to an audition with her and while I was there, she said I should audition also, and I got the part. Needless to say, she has not spoken to me since.
Do you remember how it felt at your Broadway Debut as Anita in West Side Story?
It was an amazing feeling because we got through the show. Our goal was to get through the show. It wasn’t until the party afterwards that we knew it was something special.
You say Leonard Bernstein and Gwen Verdon were influential to your success, can you explain why?
Leonard was a great artist and had a lot of information that I wanted and needed to know and Gwen because she was a great example of what I wanted to be. She was the one who said to me I should explore my own talents and not audition for her understudy. She gave me the courage to go out on my own.
You worked a lot with the talented Bob Fosse. Can you tell us about Bob and your experience with him?
It was exciting! He had a great sense of humor, and his style was so different from anything else I have ever experienced.
In 2009 President Barack Obama presented you with Presidential Medal of Freedom, how was that experience?
That was a mind-boggling feeling. Honestly, I thought he was making a mistake, and I just kept looking around. President Obama is such a warm wonderful person. It was so exciting to be given that award and I have pics all over the house of that experience.
How does it feel to be tied with Julie Harris as the most TONY nominated actress in Broadway History?
Where are my other wins? How come I didn’t get all of them? I am just kidding I am very grateful for what I have gotten and to be in the company of Julie Harris, that’s pretty fantastic.
Do you have a favorite role or roles or a favorite show?
I really feel that each one was as great as all of them, they were just different. I am grateful to have all of them, but I don’t have a favorite. Each one had its own advantage.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Crazy, passionate, and loyal.
What do you do for fun?
I love to laugh so I make sure that the people I surround myself with humorous.
What should our readers expect from your performance at the Broadway Concert Series?
Being with Seth is the greatest joy. He is different, surprising, and he asks unrehearsed questions. Seth knows so much, he is amazing. I always look forward to performing with him, and I think the audience will love it. There will be lots of show tunes and hopefully some laughs.
What does the future hold for you?
I don’t know, but I hope more time, and more friends.