In theater lingo, Chita Rivera is whats known as a triple threat -- one of those rare performers who can act, sing, and dance with equal skill. In Chita Rivera: The Dancers Life -- Terrence McNallys 2005 musical that celebrates Riveras long career -- the spotlight shines brightest on one of those talents. There arent many true dance shows out there anymore, says Mentor native Jennifer Savelli, a former Rockette and Pennsylvania Ballet member who joins Rivera onstage as part of the tours ensemble. This one is the real deal. The Dancers Life begins a 12-day run at Playhouse Square tonight.
As the shows title hints, Rivera (whos won two Tony Awards) wasnt always a leading lady. If she hadnt auditioned for a Broadway musical on a whim way back in 1952, she might have ended up a ballerina. She was spotted by Call Me Madam choreographer Jerome Robbins and went on to Great White Way fame. Rivera, 73, is still going strong all these years later. Its almost impossible to think of musicals like West Side Story, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman without thinking of the characters she brought to life.
The Dancers Life chronicles the many steps along the way, with Rivera reenacting scenes from her most famous roles. Savelli finds it inspiring. She recalls hearing Rivera sing All That Jazz on record when she was a little girl; now she can hardly believe shes standing onstage next to her idol night after night. Shes such a role model for us dancers, she says. We can all only hope to be like her.
Tuesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays, 1:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Sundays, 1 & 6 p.m. Starts: Feb. 13. Continues through Feb. 25