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).