rambling reporter

Chita's 'Dancer's Life' hoofing it on road trip

The most recent Broadway show starring the great Chita Rivera was much too good to have expired after only 72 performances (and 20 prevues) as "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life" did in February. Perfect it may not have been but wonderfully entertaining it was with its dazzling diva and first-class credentials (book by Terrence McNally, direction and choreography by Graciela Daniele). Chita, heading a cast of 10, took audiences on a sprightly musical journey from her early hopes of being a pint-sized Moira Shearer to her Kennedy Center Honors decades later, which came to her because of what she added to the likes of Broadway's "West Side Story," "Bye Bye Birdie," "Chicago" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman," along with the movie "Sweet Charity" and other hits. (And yeah, there were flops, too — all part of "the dancer's life.") So it comes as particularly good news that the announcement made in February that the show would tour actually happening, something few expected would ever occur. It launches Dec. 19 for a two-weeker at the Aronoff Theatre in Cincinnati, then tours to more than 15 primary locales, including Miami, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Seattle, Costa Mesa, Calif., West Palm Beach, Fla., Washington, D.C., Boston, Providence, R.I., Milwaukee, Buffalo, N.Y., and all the way to Norfolk, Va., wrapping June 10. It's going to make 2006-07 infinitely brighter for many, especially those who believe as I do that whenever one gets a chance to see one of our towering talents in action — be it a Chita, Barbara Cook, Hugh Jackman, Christopher Plummer, Elaine Stritch, Michael Feinstein, Tony Bennett, La Streisand, et al. — one should do anything humanly possible to do just that. … Dec. 18 also is a day deserving a trumpet blast: It marks what would have been the 90th birthday of Betty Grable, the great pinup girl of World War II who helped pay the mortgage for a whopping 10-year period for 20th Century Fox studios (in the day when there was, officially, a hyphen between the Century and Fox in the studio's logo). For a decade, Grable remained the female star who reigned as No. 1 at the nation's movie boxoffices, every one of her films a moneymaker, though she didn't have a genuine classic in the lot. Most of our film legends had a "Gilda," like Rita Hayworth; a "Postman Always Rings Twice," as did Lana Turner; a "Some Like It Hot," like Marilyn Monroe — not Grable, whose musicals were chirpy, entertaining and Technicolorful but none a contender for National Film Registry designation. But Grable herself was a knockout — sexy, adorable, perky, good-natured — and the camera loved her. Who cared if she was just so-so as a singer, dancer and/or actress? "There are two reasons I'm a star," she used to say. "I'm standing on them." She also was, in person if not on a film, a very comical lady. Lucille Ball used to say: "I'm not funny. I know how to be funny, but I don't think 'funny.' If you want funny, be around Betty Grable. She's hilarious." (BG died in 1973 at age 57.)