Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Evening With Rita Moreno at The Annenberg

Last night we went to the season opening benefit concert at the Annenberg Theatre starring Rita Moreno. The Annenberg is small, professional first rate theatre at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It boasts a diverse season each year to celebrate the arts, but its actions are interwoven with the mission of the Art Museum to promote arts with children and across the community at large. (PS- this photo of Rita is from Palm Springs Life magazine).

As a fundraiser, last night's season opening performance was a success. In addition to fund-raising ticket prices, the Wells Fargo Foundation donated $100,000 to the Palm Springs Art Museum’s children's education program, which enables nearly 15,000 underprivileged kids be able to participate in art programs and visit the museum. The Palm Springs Art Museum has a broad children's program that provides bus transportation and education programs for a total of 35,000 students every year. In a small community like the Palm Springs area, that is an impressive number.

I always enjoy going to the Annenberg Theatre. As a member of the Palm Springs Art Museum, I take personal pride in our museum and theatre. The museum has a first rate collection of permanant and visiting exhibits. It also blends it all nicely with our history to Hollywood too. The walls of the theatre lobby are lined with wonderful black and white photos of the many Hollywood stars who lived here or spent time in Palm Springs. There are photos of Natalie Wood, Bing Crosby, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Frank Sinatra, Zsa Zsa and Ava Gabor, Kirk Douglas, Desi Arnaz, and William Powell, just to name a few. It takes you back in time just wandering these halls and looking at all the terrific photos.
Anyway, back to Rita Moreno. Just before the show I learned she is one of only eight performers ever to have earned each of the major entertainment awards: An Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and a Tony!
Her Broadway career started in 1945 and included an early role in the great film Singin' in the Rain in 1952. A breakthrough role was that of Tuptim in The King and I in 1956. She is perhaps still best known for her career-defining role as Anita in West Side Story in 1961. She appeared in a number of impressive films with major actors, but also appeared in TV's The Electric Company and The Muppet Show, with a focus on children's education. She also played the coveted role of silent screen star Norma Desmond in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Sunset Boulevard in London. More recently, she played the role of Sister Peter Marie for five years, on HBO's OZ series. In OZ, she played a nun who was a psychologist to the hardened inmates at a maximum security prison. So yes, Rita Moreno has had a long and diverse career. At 78 years old, she isn't slowing down either. She proved that she is quite a pro as well. Last night she performed despite fighting a cold. Her speaking voice was a little rough, and she had the occasional sniffle but she plugged away like a trouper and gave a good performance.
She started out by letting her audience know she only sings songs she personally likes, and selected a set that ranged from American Gershwin standards, lesser known Broadway songs, and several memorable Latin songs. I particularly enjoyed the Spanish song “Ararjuez” in which she donned castanets. She also performed “Auguinaldo” beautifully- its actually a Puerto Rican Christmas song with lots of energy, and sang also the classic “Brazil”. She also sang a few Broadway musical songs “Lady in the Dark" and "Sunset Boulevard". In all it was a crowd-pleasing performance that left me humming along as we left the theatre. I was especially grateful to Ms Moreno for performing to kick of our new season and helping raise money for our local theatre.
-Rick Rockhill


grace said...

she looks fantastic! still beautiful as ever. What a fantastic evening it sounds :)

Biddie said...

She does look fantastic! It sounds like a wonderful evening..How awesome that she supports the smaller theaters.

WAT said...

Rita! Puerto Rican Rita! A national treasure baby! YOU GO GIRL!

All this fundraising and culture in Palm Springs makes me giddy.

kenju said...

I love her hair and I wish mine would look like that!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I LOVE Rita Moreno...She is so versatile--She truly can do ANYTHING!
I've been to The Annenberg...And it certainly is a BEAUTIFUL little theatre....! Sounds like a great great evening, Rick!

KathyA said...

I've always admired her, too!

Lois Grebowski said...

I had the pleasure of seeing her perform in person (I can't remember the show). She is one talented lady!

Diane J Standiford said...

LOVE HER, you lucky dog! She deserved every award!

lime said...

i did know she had one of each of those major awards. i didn't know she was 78. hard to believe! but she looks fantastic and apparently still puts on a fantastic show. thanks for sharing.


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