You've got to give Chita Rivera serious props for recording her first non-cast album at the ripe age of 76. And Now I Swingwas just released last week by Yellow Sound Label.
Rivera, who was recently awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contributions to the arts, is best known for her dance roles in such blockbuster Broadway productions as West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She is preparing to go on tour in January, obviously having little to no intention of retiring.
While Rivera is a fine singer, she's never possessed what most would consider a "pretty" voice. Hers is a strong alto that she tends to employ forcefully. It certainly works for her on stage, but her voice on film and CD has been another matter.
That being said, And Now I Swing is well worth a listen by her fans as well as by Broadway aficionados and jazz enthusiasts. Her selection of songs on the CD is unique. There are several to-be-expected Kander & Ebb compositions, which Rivera gives a more intimate treatment here than is possible on stage. She also includes lovely renditions of the standard "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and Carol Hall's sentimental "Circle of Friends."
The CD's only misstep is the inclusion of "Carousel," written by Jacque Brel. Rivera handles it very well, technically speaking, but the song is repetitive to the point of inanity. It made me want to rip the CD out of my car's player and throw it out the window! Fortunately, I restrained myself.
Be sure to check out the photos of Rivera on the CD's jacket and within. I hope I look and sound as good when/if I make it to my 70's! And remember, as any Forbidden Broadway fan will tell you: Her name is Chita, and not Rita!
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.