Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Matt Gatens As Chita Rivera!

Eliciting great excitement on both coasts, Variety and Broadway World reported this afternoon that University Of Iowa men’s basketball player Matt Gatens has had a one-woman show in development for the last two years. The show, “Chita”, will be a tribute to Chita Rivera, the 77-year-old singer and dancer—and former Latin bombshell—who first graced the Broadway stage in 1952’s “Call Me Madam”. Rivera is also warmly remembered for her Great White Way appearances in “Can-Can”, “Sweet Charity” and “Kiss Me, Kate”, among many other hits.

Director and choreographer Susan Stroman, who got her first big break in the 1987 revival of “Flora, The Red Menace” and who is best-known for her work directing and choreographing “The Producers”, has quietly been working behind the scenes with Gatens on the project for more than two years, devoting time to “Chita” whenever she has had a few moments to spare from other projects. Stroman cited her previous experience in staging successful one-woman shows—Stroman was the guiding force behind 1992’s “Liza Stepping Out At Radio City Music Hall”—as the reason why she in particular was the ideal figure to guide the “Chita” project to fruition.

Broadway insiders have known, for months, that the show was in development. Outsiders, too, have suspected that something was afoot, owing to Gatens’s frequent practice of incorporating Broadway choreography into his work on the basketball court.

Gatens’s recent appearance as a floozy chorine/cowgirl in “The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas”, televised live nationwide from Indianapolis on March 11, more or less let the cat out of the bag that Gatens was moving into musical theater. However, it was not until this morning’s announcement from the stage of the Lyceum Theatre, where Stroman was adding finishing touches to Kander and Ebb’s “The Scottsboro Boys”, scheduled to open on October 31, that theatergoers officially learned that “Chita” was in current production.

Theater and dates have not been announced, but it is widely expected that “Chita” will move into the Belasco early next year once “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown” concludes its current run.

Stroman disclosed that a two-year gestation period had been necessary in order to allow Gatens to master the show’s choreography.

“Close observers have noticed, for the last two years, that Matt has been incorporating more and more Chita Rivera moves and routines into his on-court play”, Stroman told Variety.

“Little by little, he is getting better—and I can now see genuine glimpses of the REAL Chita Rivera in Matt’s work”, Stroman revealed. “He’s a real joy to work with, eager to nail every facet of Chita Rivera’s huge talent and larger-than-life personality. Matt was born to play Chita.”

“Matt still has not mastered all the moves”, Stroman continued, “but he has made enough progress that soon we will be ready to go into full-time rehearsal.”

Jujamycn and The Nederlander Organization will jointly serve as producers for “Chita”. DARR Publicity—known for its work on an earlier one-woman show, “Behind The Façade Of Jackie O”—will handle public relations duties for the production. All jewels worn by Gatens in "Chita" will be courtesy of Harry Winston.

Gatens’s understudy has not been announced (although Josh Oglesby was rumored to be under consideration until the producers learned about his 2009 theft of alcohol from a Cedar Rapids Walgreen's outlet).


  1. This is so wittily written, I’m laughing so hard I’m crying—and I’m probably missing out on half your jokes. This is the best parody of anything I’ve read in a long time. It builds and builds, getting better and better, until that great Harry Winston line at the end.

    Your blog is where a late night search for info about “Scottsboro Boys” leads. I’m glad I made the journey. Thank you for the great laughs.

    Phil (in Miami)

  2. Sources at TAW confirm that Josh Oglesby was indeed dropped from consideration as Gaten’s understudy for the upcoming Belasco premiere of “Chita.”

    Oglesby has meanwhile signed to replace Donald Rosenberg in the current Viennese stage musical, “The Life and Ungodly times of Marie Antoinette,” a happy development that producers there hope will reduce that show’s overhead, which had spiraled out of control due to the purported exorbitance of the cost of Rosenberg’s makeup arsenal.

    In retaliation for being snubbed by “Chita” producers, Josh Oglesby, sources say, informed Liza Minnelli that Susan Stroman had recently cut “A Boy Like That” from “Chita,” on account of Gaten’s inability to pitch the highest note in the phrase “and gets your HEART, very SMART, Maria, very SMART!”

    According to a man who delivered donuts and coffee to Ms. Minnelli, the coupling to "A Boy Like That," "I Had a Love,” will be retained in "Chita."

  3. New York’s leading theater columnist, Michael Riedel, reports this morning that there are tensions behind the scenes as “Chita” enters rehearsal.

    While rehearsing Gatens in “Can That Boy Foxtrot!”, the closing number for Act I, Stroman became exasperated and screamed to her assistant, “That boy can’t foxtrot!”

    Gatens’s father, Mike, who attends all rehearsals, overheard the remark and promptly called one of the show’s backers and demanded that Stroman be fired on the spot.

    “This isn’t Iowa City, where you can throw your weight around and get anyone fired who looks at your son cross-eyed” was the response Mike Gatens received, at which point Mike Gatens called KCRG, a television station in Cedar Rapids, to arrange a live TV interview with Matt in order to dispel rumors that Matt was not up to the demands of the production.

    When Stroman learned of Mike Gatens’s attempt to secure damage control via a Cedar Rapids news outlet, she sarcastically told him, “Get real, country boy. This isn’t Iowa. What may fly in Cedar Rapids will not play in the rest of the country.”

    Mike Gatens’s response: “I don’t know why not. It’s always worked before.”

    Columnist Riedel and his sources intend to keep a close eye on the fallout—and report daily, if necessary.

  4. I can hardly wait for those daily updates.

    For me, experiencing the gradual disrobing of “Chita”’s secrets is as exhilarating as being kidnapped by a busload of Iowa City cowgirls – and all without fear of getting “bootiemarks” on my back.

  5. Sportswriter Pat Hardy of the IC Press-Citizen, known as the Oppressed Citizen to locals, is onto this story. Since Iowa football has a bye week, Hardy’s working fulltime on breaking developments re Matt Gatens and “Chita”.

    When Matt Gatens was starring as Belle in a four-year run of “Little Me” in IC from fall 2005 through spring 2008, father Mike Gatens succeeded in getting the show’s director, Curt Johansen, fired two years into the run. “Curt Johansen will never win Matt a Tony—but I think Andy Woodley will” was the reason Mike Gatens gave for Johansen’s dismissal from “Little Me” and Woodley’s hiring. Johansen is now reduced to staging “Brigadoon” at Highland Theater in rural Ainsworth a few miles south of IC.

    However, after year three, when Matt still failed to win a Tony under Woodley, “Little Me” raided the cast of “West Side Story”, running in an adjacent theater, in order to give Matt a better supporting cast. Melba (“Malcolm”) Moore was the primary cast member raided to give “Little Me” some oomph at the box office.

    Voila! Matt won the Tony for “Little Me” in year four!

    Moral of the story: fathers CAN win awards for their sons.

    End note: and now the Gatens’s mafia is talking, once again, about importing Melba (“Malcolm”) Moore back to IC from Texas, where Malcom has been appearing in “Tip-Toes”, to lend his support to baby Matt.

    “Tip-Toes” is amazingly on-topic. The show is about members of a vaudeville act that try to pass themselves off as aristocrats.

  6. What a coincidence!

    The song, "Looking For A Boy", the biggest hit from "Tip-Toes", will be sung by Gatens in Act II of "Chita".

    Small world.

  7. I just learned that Mike Hlas of the CR Gazette is also onto this story. It’s no longer just a New York news item. It’s going global!

    Hlas learned about the “Chita” infighting from KCRG, whose parent company also owns the Gazette, after Hlas heard in the newsroom that Papa Mike had pressured the local TV station into doing a live interview with Baby Matt.

    Hlas was PO’ed! He believed he should have had first rights to the story.

    Hlas is working on a background feature, addressing the closed-door influence the Gatens mafia has tried to exert in the local theater community for years.

    He’s interviewing witnesses on background right now about Baby Matt’s sister, Megan Gatens, who had a four-year contract ending in 2008 to play the tall woman in one of the “Princess” musicals, “Very Good Eddie”, but who bailed on the show in 2006, two years into the run. (Baby Matt had played the small but vital role of Gay Anne Giddy in that same production.) Megan fell out with the director of “Very Good Eddie” and, unable to get the director replaced, Megan quit the show in a huff with two years remaining on her contract. The director of “Very Good Eddie” had a very talented son who went on to gain national exposure earlier this year for his work in “Assassins”, which landed him on the cover of major magazines.

    Hlas is the perfect writer to work on this story. Hlas remembers how Megan and Baby Matt got their starts in theater years ago working together at the Finkbine Playhouse, a local institution, in summer stock productions of “Animal Crackers, “The Boy Friend” and “Bye, Bye, Birdie”. Hlas knows that it was the influence of Papa Mike that got Megan and Baby Matt their Finkbine gigs.

    The rest is history.

  8. Are you David Burge of the satiric IowaHawk blog?

    With the aid of Google, I have been able to discern some of your jokes.

    Finkbine is a golf course, right? Hence the “Birdie” reference?

    Highland is a small school system in Ainsworth, Iowa, right? Where Coach Johansen had to flee after being shoved aside at Iowa City High?

    The kid from Northern Iowa who was on the cover of Sports Illustrated after UNI’s upset of Kansas is the son of the mother who was Megan Gatens’s volleyball coach at the University Of Iowa? Am I getting this right?

    I have yet to figure out all your references, but one thing is clear: What a cesspool you have in Iowa City!