If you weren’t one of the lucky ones who got to see the amazing Emmy, Tony, Oscar, and Grammy winning talents of Rita Moreno at Edmonds Center, the night the big storm of the century predicted here didn’t hit, you didn’t have the guts of the nearly full house at Edmonds Center for the Arts, nor have such a grand time. One of the last starlets to rise out of the Hollywood studio system as the Golden Age waned, this Miss M, at 84 is still a spitfire of tears, laughs, scintillating moves, and sheer irrepressible talent.
Rita (who also appeared in Puyallup and Olympia over the weekend) looks like a million bucks, still has a curvaceous dancers figure, and does all the right steps. Her show is songs and stories intertwined–some are jazzy, some hilariously comic, some poignant, and all magic. This despite a frog in her throat (“Maybe it’s the beginning of pneumonia”) she acted the songs so skillfully, got all the jokes, and what’s more, Froggy had apparently hopped away by the shorter, but still scintillating second act.
She brought back a great upbeat forgotten Broadway show-tune “But Alive” from Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’ Tony winning Applause. “C’mon. She croaked it!” Moreno confides to the audience with the same kind of comic vitriol Elaine Stritch patented. She shares a great, naughty story (gone into in “My memoir , still available on Amazon” she quips) about her torrid love affair with Marlon Brando, and how it went from scorching to tepid, thanks to his wayward ways.
From telling of a rap accented commencement address at the prestigious Berklee School of Music, done a la Hamilton, to proudly talking about her soon to be broadcast Latinx reboot of the 70’s sitcom “One Day at a Time” on Netflix produced by the legendary, now 94-year-old Norman Lear, her show would be a dazzler if it was all stories. Oh, but it ain’t!
A pair of comic novelty songs had me laughing harder than I have in years. Two Spanish language songs, one a zesty and not at all staid Christmas carol, harkened back to her ethnicity as a Puerto Rican raised in Brooklyn. Her rendition of “I Love A Piano” rescues this great Irving Berlin tune from undeserved obscurity. As haunting and spellbinding as she was in two numbers (“With One Look” and “New Ways to Dream”) as silent screen legend Norma Desmond from Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard, it made me wish I’d seen her in the role in London two decades back.
All told, there ought to be a nationally known award for this kind of show, and star. Or maybe Rita Moreno goes back to Broadway and takes home a second Tony for this enchanted evening.
For more on An Evening with Rita Moreno and her ongoing tour with the show, see her Facebook page.