Chita Rivera wants you to know she doesn’t think about dancing and acting all the time.
“Make sure you tell them she’s butch enough to like baseball,” Rivera insists during a telephone interview after explaining how she might “drop in a baseball reference during this interview, since I just watched the Derek Jeter press conference. I’m a huge Yankees fan, and he’s about as cute as you can get.”
A star of stage and screen, Rivera, 81, is bringing her one-woman show “Chita: A Legendary Celebration” to Aventura Arts and Cultural Center on Friday, March 7.
“It’s the shows I’ve done having worked with the great geniuses: Cy [Coleman] and Kander and Ebb,” Rivera says about the show. “It’s still all the stories, and it’s still that formula of telling things that happened. And doing the obvious numbers I hope people really want to hear, like ‘Chicago’ and ‘[Kiss of the] Spider Woman,’ ‘Can-Can’ and ‘The Rink,’ and all those shows. You’re crazy not to do that, such great material.”
The two-time Tony winner left Washington, D.C., for New York when she was 17 to dance at George Balanchine’s American School of Ballet. Jerome Robbins put her in “Call Me Madam,” which was Great White Way debut in 1950. She never went back to ballet as “Guys and Dolls,” “Can-Can,” “Seventh Heaven” and “Mr. Wonderful” (with Sammy Davis Jr.) followed before she became a star as Anita in “West Side Story” in 1957.
After doing “Bye Bye Birdie” in 1960 with Dick Van Dyke, she co-starred with Shirley MacLaine in the film version of “Sweet Charity” in 1969. After touring for years, Fred Ebb, John Kander and Bob Fosse brought her back to Broadway with “Chicago” in 1975 and then “The Rink” in 1984 (her first Tony). In 1992, Kander and Ebb put her center stage again in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (her second Tony).
In 2003, she starred in “Nine” with Antonio Banderas in New York and in 2009 she did yet another John Kander/Fred Ebb musical — “The Visit” — after releasing a solo studio album, “And Now I Swing,” on the Yellow Sound Label.
Onstage during her concerts, Rivera says the memories come flooding back while she’s singing the songs from her shows.
“Even though I insist on being in the moment and in the place … when I am allowed to revisit these amazing moments that have happened to me, that is a gift. And I hope that is what is happening to the audience again. It takes me back. There are two things going on: being in the present and being able to go back and reminisce; like working with Liza Minnelli, Antonio Banderas, Ricardo Montalban or flying when doing ‘Spider Woman.’ It’s very rich and layered. And that is what happens when you get older. You feel different. You’re more solid. There are different colors to your personality. It’s you, but it’s richer.”
Chita Rivera will perform 8 p.m. Friday, March 7 at Aventura Arts and Cultural Center, 3385 NE 188th St. Tickets cost $49.50. Call 877-311-7469 or go to AventuraCenter.org.