The two-time Tony Award-winning actress, singer and dancer has been dazzling audiences for more than 60 years, playing iconic leads like Anita in the Broadway premiere of West Side Story, Velma in the original production of Chicago and Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman. On July 23, Rivera recreates iconic moments from her legendary career in a solo concert at Guild Hall. We sat down with the octogenarian and found that she’s still as sassy and sexy as ever.
Which five iconic figures would be at your dream dinner party?
Pope Francis (at the head of the table), Mother Teresa, Michael Jordan, my mother and Dom DeLuise
Favorite role to date?
Anita from West Side Story because she was the one who pushed me forward. The rest came after her.
If you had to sum up your life in a song, which would it be?
‘Small Fry’ by Johnny Mercer
Do you prefer comedies or dramas?
Laughing comes first. I love to laugh; it keeps you young.
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever heard?
Someone once compared me to Marlene Dietrich.
What are you really good at?
Being a friend and loving
What profession would you never try?
If you could fix one thing about America, what would it be?
I wish our government and our president would get along.
How do you like to spend your summer?
I love to sing on a hot summer night. Some of my fondest memories are performing at big outdoor concerts or intimate gems like Guild Hall. The Hamptons are such a divine place to spend a few lazy summer days: the beach, Nick & Toni’s or just a spicy barbecue at home with friends.
What’s your definition of sexy?
Heat. For women, sexiness is being feminine and being a woman—not a girl.
First celebrity crush?
What’s your biggest vice?
Snacking. I love Doritos.
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
A lot of wine and Champagne, eggs, bacon, butter... all of the stuff [needed] for when the family comes over.
First thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Put in my eye drops, turn on CNN and have a cup of English Breakfast tea
What three things are essential on your nightstand?
My book [Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life]; a picture of my daughter, Lisa; and a picture of me and Pope Francis—I’m holding his hand and looking like I’m about to faint!
Last thing you googled?
I don’t google! You’re lucky if you get a text from me.
TV guilty pleasure?
The Walking Dead. It’s absolutely fabulous. I wouldn’t mind being one of those zombies—just once.
Who would write your life’s score?
Fred Ebb and John Kander [Chicago, Cabaret, The Visit] because they know me the best. My score would be dark, Latin, full of passion and wildly fun.
What does no one know about Chita Rivera?
That I’m nowhere near as nice as I appear to be. I don’t like getting angry—it’s a horrible feeling—but if I’m angry, I go there, and I have to win.
From $40, 158 Main St., East Hampton, guildhall.org