The ten-time Tony-nominated actress, dancer, and singer Chita Rivera will discuss her extensive career on Broadway in musicals such as West Side Story and Chicago with Broadway director John Doyle, a professor in Princeton University’s Lewis Center for the Arts. The discussion will take place on Monday, December 12 at 2:00 p.m. in the James M. Stewart ‘32 Theater at 185 Nassau Street as a part of Doyle’s fall course, “Luminaries of the American Musical Theater.” Presented by the Lewis Center’s new Program in Music Theater, the event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required.
Doyle’s course focuses on seven icons of American musical theater in the past 60 years, specifically Michael Bennett, Bob Fosse, John Kander and Fred Ebb, Harold Prince, Jerome Robbins, and Stephen Sondheim. Students are examining the influences of these icons on the evolution of American musical theater by studying the scripts and performances of musicals, presenting new production ideas for these plays, and engaging in lectures given by visiting professional musical theater figures who worked closely with these masters. Rivera will discuss her work with Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Kander and Ebb, and other musical theater luminaries.
Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and received eight additional Tony nominations for a record ten Tony nominations over her long career. Her electric performance as Anita in the original Broadway production of West Side Story brought her stardom, which she repeated in the London production. She recently starred in The Visit, the final John Kander/Fred Ebb/Terrence McNally musical directed by Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele on Broadway. She starred in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the Broadway and touring productions of The Dancer’s Life, which celebrated her theatrical career, and the revival of the Broadway musical Nine with Antonio Banderas. She trained in ballet from age 11 before receiving a scholarship to the School of American Ballet from legendary choreographer George Balanchine. Her career is highlighted by starring roles in Bye Bye Birdie; The Rink, for which she received her first Tony Award; Chicago; Jerry’s Girls; Kiss of the Spider Woman, for which she received her second Tony Award; and the original Broadway casts of Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Seventh Heaven and Mr. Wonderful. Rivera was awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2009. She was a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2002, the first Hispanic woman chosen to receive this award. In 2015, PBS’s Great Performances aired Chita Rivera: A Lot of Livin’ To Do, a retrospective on her extraordinary life and career.
Doyle is a Tony Award-winning director recognized for his work on the Broadway revivals of Sweeney Todd and Company. This past year he received a Drama Desk Award as Best Director of a Musical for his revival of The Color Purple, for which he was also nominated for a Tony Award. His other credits in the U.S. include productions of The Visit (Tony nomination for Best Musical, Drama Desk nomination for Best Director); Mahagonny (Los Angeles Opera, two Grammy Awards); Passion (Classic Stage Company, Drama Desk nomination for Best Director of a Musical); Road Show (Public Theatre); Caucasian Chalk Circle (American Conservatory Theatre); and Kiss Me Kate (Stratford Festival Theatre). As well as numerous credits in London’s West End, Doyle has also directed at Sydney Opera House, the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera, La Fenice in Venice, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Second Stage Theatre, Princeton’s McCarter theatre, and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. He has taught in Princeton’s Program in Theater and the Princeton Atelier for the past three years, and is the artistic director of Class Stage Company in New York City.
Doyle’s class hosted other discussions on American musical theater figures throughout the semester in conversations with president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization Ted Chapin; Tony-nominated choreographer and director Graciela Daniele; Tony Award-winner Donna McKechnie, who originated the role of Cassie in Broadway’s A Chorus Line; Tony, Grammy, Emmy, and Academy Award-winning orchestrator and composer Jonathan Tunick; and four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally.
The series is supported in part by the David A. Gardner ’69 Magic Project in the Council of the Humanities.
The new Program in Music Theater is a collaboration among Princeton’s Program in Theater, Program in Dance, and Department of Music, which brings together students, faculty, and guest artists in the creation, study, and performance of music theater—that is, any theatrical form that combines singing, acting, and movement—in order to support and develop it as both an artistic practice and a scholarly field of study.