RIP Broadway dancer, John Mineo

The Verdon Fosse Legacy mourns the loss of Broadway performer, John Mineo (10/26/1942-11/19/2016). Mineo performed in Bob Fosse’s PIPPIN and DANCIN’ and in the Broadway revival of CHICAGO.

Born in the Bronx, Mineo began dancing at age 5 and was accepted to the High School of Performing Arts before landing his first Broadway show as Baby John in WEST SIDE STORY at age 17. After an extensive forty-four year career on Broadway (nineteen musicals!), Mineo relocated to Japan with his wife to found J Dance, a theater and tap dance studio in Osaka. www.thinkcount.com

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“Chita: Nowadays” Chita Rivera at Carnegie Hall

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Chita performing “Nowadays” with Alan Cumming.

On Monday, November 7th, two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera performed a one-night-only concert “Chita: Nowadays” at Carnegie Hall. Though a legend that has graced many of the world’s greatest stages, this was Chita’s first appearance at New York City’s Carnegie Hall.

Headlined, of course, by Chita, the evening was studded with a number of Broadway’s leading men. (In the words of Roxie Hart, “I’m gonna get me a whole bunch of boys!”) Alan Cumming, Andy Karl, James Harms, Javier Munoz, Matthew Deming, Brandon Victor Dixon, Stevie Van Zandt, Chris Newcomer, and the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus shared the stage with Ms. Rivera along with her back-up dancers, Richard Amaro, Robert Mantano, Ramon Del Barrio, and Lloyd Culbreath (a chief reconstructed for The Verdon Fosse Legacy).

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Chita with her “back up boys:” Richard Amaro, Robert Mantano, Ramon Del Barrio, and Lloyd Culbreath.

Between each song and dance number, Chita told an anecdote about her many male co-stars (the dreamy Antonio Banderas and the charming Dick Van Dyke, to name a few) or recalled a memorable phone call (John Kander and Fred Ebb soliciting Chita to play the role of Liza Minnelli’s mother in THE RINK, or Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon asking Chita to take on the role of Charity Hope Valentine in the first national tour of SWEET CHARITY).

Produced by Daniel Nardicio and directed by Graciela Daniele, “Chita: Nowadays” celebrated Chita Rivera’s remarkable career on both the stage and the screen. Just a few of her most notable credits include originating the roles of Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, Rosie in BYE, BYE BIRDIE, Aurora in KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN, Liliane in NINE, Velma in CHICAGO, and, most recently, Claire in THE VISIT. Chita has starred in 18 Broadway shows, has been nominated for 10 Tony Awards, was the first Latino American woman to receive a Kennedy Center Honors Award (2002), and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2009.

20th anniversary of CHICAGO revival

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of CHICAGO’s 1996 Broadway revival.

Chicago Tribune reporter, Maurine Watkins, was assigned to cover the cases of accused murderers Beulah Annan and Belva Gaertner in 1924. The public went wild over Watkins’ coverage and the trials of a slew of other women who had killed their husbands and lovers. Murderesses quickly became celebrities—their stories sensationalized and their demeanor playing a significant role in the pursuit of justice. Watkins became fascinated with the frenzy and inspired to write her 1926 play, CHICAGO.

Watkins’ play has remained consistently relevant and intriguing over the past ninety years. It inspired Cecil B. DeMille’s 1927 silent film, the 1942 film “Roxie Hart” starring Ginger Rogers, Bob Fosse’s 1975 stage musical, the 1996 Broadway revival, and the 2002 Oscar-winning movie musical.

(Fun fact: Late in her life, Watkins became a born-again Christian and denounced her own play for glamorizing sex, scandal, and corruption. So when Bob Fosse approached Watkins for the rights to turn her play into a musical, she declined. It wasn’t until after her death that Fosse was able to buy the rights from Watkins’ estate.)

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Original revival stars: Bebe Neuwirth (Velma Kelly), James Naughton (Billy Flynn), Ann Reinking (Roxie Hart), and Joel Grey (Amos Hart).

CHICAGO tells a story of “murder, greed, violence, exploitation, adultery and treachery: all those things we hold near and dear to our hearts.”  Wannabe stage celebrity, Roxie Hart, kills her lover and winds up behind bars with a whole cast of “merry” murderesses including vaudeville star, Velma Kelly, who killed her husband and sister after she caught them in bed together. Roxie’s husband, Amos, blind to his wife’s indiscretions, scrounges enough money to hire the best lawyer in town: Billy Flynn. Though successful, Flynn is a crook himself and puppeteers both the media and the trial.  Through a vaudeville lens, CHICAGO illustrates the eery similarities between the justice system and show business.  It’s all just a bunch of razzle dazzle, things aren’t always what they seem, and—you know—all that jazz.