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Arts & Culture

GREAT PERFORMANCES: Chita Rivera: A Lot Of Livin' To Do

Chita Rivera
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott, WNET
Chita Rivera

Airs Friday, November 6, 2015 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Anita in “West Side Story.” Rosie in “Bye Bye Birdie.” Velma in “Chicago.” Those are just some of the iconic roles created by the incredible Chita Rivera. The Broadway legend has been lighting up Broadway and international stages for over 70 years. With originating roles in a host of other iconic Broadway shows including “Mr. Wonderful,” “The Rink,” “Bajour,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and major revivals of “Nine,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” and numerous others, Rivera was also a frequent guest star during the Golden Age of Television variety specials. In 2002, she became the first female honoree of Hispanic-American heritage to be feted at the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 2009, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Chita Rivera
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott, WNET
Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera on stage, accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra led by her music director Michael Croiter, and long-time associate music director/pianist Michael Patrick Walker and bassist Jim Donica.
Courtesy of Joseph Sinnott, WNET
Chita Rivera on stage, accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra led by her music director Michael Croiter, and long-time associate music director/pianist Michael Patrick Walker and bassist Jim Donica.

This past season, Ms. Rivera returned to Broadway’s Lyceum Theatre in a Tony-nominated starring role in “The Visit,” the final collaboration of the legendary songwriting team of John Kander and the late Fred Ebb with playwright Terrence McNally. “Chita Rivera: A Lot Of Livin’ To Do,” the 60-minute career retrospective – featuring interviews, archival performance footage, and newly filmed songs from Rivera’s concert repertoire including such numbers as “A Boy Like That,” “America,” “A Lot of Livin’ to Do,” “All That Jazz,” and “Nowadays” -- airs on GREAT PERFORMANCES, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 on PBS. The special celebrating Ms. Rivera’s extraordinary career then and now will air as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival 2015.

The night of the taping, Broadway shows and, indeed, most of New York City shut down in preparation for the blizzard predicted to be one of the City’s worst winter storms ever. This did not deter the Broadway icon or her musicians from braving the elements and giving an electrifying performance. Before a packed audience at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s The Appel Room in the Time Warner Center, against a winter wonderland backdrop of Central Park and Columbus Circle, the two-time Tony Award winner performs signature moments from her legendary career including a special tribute to her dear friends John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally.

In addition to rare archival clips from Chita’s many shows and TV appearances, there are newly filmed interviews with John Kander, choreographer Graciele Daniele, "The Visit" director John Doyle, original “West Side Story” star Carol Lawrence, playwright Terrence McNally, entertainers Dick Van Dyke and Ben Vereen, choreographer Dee Dee Wood, and Chita’s daughter, singer, dancer, choreographer Lisa Mordente. Ms. Rivera is accompanied by an 11-piece orchestra led by her music director Michael Croiter, and long-time associate music director/pianist Michael Patrick Walker and bassist Jim Donica.

“Chita Rivera: A Lot Of Livin’ To Do” is a production of THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. It was produced by Richard R. Schilling, Bill O’Donnell and Mitch Owgang, and directed by David Horn. For GREAT PERFORMANCES, Bill O’Donnell is series producer and David Horn is executive producer.

Past episodes of GREAT PERFORMANCES are available for online viewing. GREAT PERFORMANCES is on Facebook, and you can follow @GPerfPBS on Twitter.

Chita Rivera is on Facebook.