I had the privilege of seeing the legendary Chita Rivera on stage in May, as she toured with her show "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life." Wow. Watching her sing, dance and tell stories, it was so hard to believe I was watching a woman who will turn 75 next month.
And she's a great storyteller as well as a talented singer and dancer. I loved hearing her talk about what it was like starting out, all the people she's worked with, including Dick Van Dyke, Gwen Verdon and Antonio Banderas. I really got a sense of her life, her career, what the dancer's life on Broadway is like, and what keeps her going.
So I was pleased to find out that in celebration of the 50th anniversary of "West Side Story," Rivera and some of the other original cast members from the landmark musical performed on Monday during the annual Gypsy of the Year competition sponsored by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
At the Broadway Cares Web site you can look at pictures, like the one above, taken by Jay Brady, and watch the tribute to "West Side Story," which opened on Broadway on Sept. 26, 1957 at the Winter Garden Theatre.
The Gypsy of the Year is the culmination of six weeks of intensive fundraising, during which more than 64 Broadway, off-Broadway and national touring companies solicit donations for Broadway Cares. This year, they raised more than $3.9 million that will go to food banks, health clinics, and AIDS and family service organizations across the United States.
Broadway's "gypsies" are the talented dancers and singers who start out like Chita Rivera - in the chorus, and dream of someday having their own star turn.
At the end of "The Dancer's Life," Rivera said she often think of the one person in the audience who may be inspired to become a dancer, and that makes it all worthwhile. Whether or not you become a dancer after seeing this theatrical icon, she's definitely an inspiration.