Students Learn from Broadway Greats Tommy Tune and Chita Rivera
Broadway legends Chita Rivera and Tommy Tune kicked off the Kean Stage 2017-2018 season with the world premiere of Chita and Tune, Just in Time at Kean University’s Enlow Recital Hall on Saturday, September 16. A group of Kean University theatre students were welcomed for a private audience at the final dress rehearsal and had an opportunity to speak with the show’s director and choreographer, Graciela Daniele, a 10-time Tony Award nominee and Theater Hall of Fame inductee.
Sitting in the balcony, the students erupted into applause after each song, demonstrating an enthusiasm that Tune acknowledged from the stage.
"I love our balcony audience. Would you come back tonight and every night?" he told the students.
After the performance, Daniele met with the students to get feedback. They listened attentively as she gave words of gratitude and advice from her 70 years of experience in the theatre.
"For you to see performers like Chita and Tommy, it is a history lesson in the musical theatre," said Daniele. "These two people have been in the theatre forever. They have just three musicians, a very limited amount of light, and one costume change at the end, but they gave you an hour and a half of storytelling."
This is the latest example of Kean students having the opportunity to work with, learn from or closely observe professional performers. In the last year, they have performed onstage with a number of artists, including Broadway's Patti LuPone, folk music's Judy Collins and Michael Mao Dance. In the next few months, students will perform with classical crossover ensemble Sons of Serendip and Heidi Latsky Dance. In addition, they will have master classes and workshops with Spanish guitar virtuoso Pablo Sáinz Villegas, Academy Award-nominated percussionist Antonio Sánchez and classical violinist Yevgeny Kutik, who will also give a lecture-performance at the Kean University Human Rights Institute.
The access to Rivera and Tune's rehearsal process reinforced what the students are learning in their theatre classes.
"I think it's beneficial to watch dress rehearsals. Especially as students, because you can see similarities in your performance. We see that professionals do what we do," said Brianna Javis of Union, a senior theatre performance major.
A few hours after the rehearsal came the premiere of Chita & Tune. The two Broadway icons, who have 12 Tony Awards between them, dazzled the Enlow Hall audience, with songs from West Side Story, Chicago, and other Broadway hit shows. They would return the next day for their second performance.
"We just feel so welcomed. This really was our world premiere," said Tune. "You are the first people to have ever seen it."
Rivera and Tune spoke with members of the audience at a VIP meet and greet after the premiere.
"One of the thrills when I got to Kean a year and a half ago was to be able to bring some wonderful artists to our stages, and I think tonight is exceptional," said Steve Cochran, manager of Kean Stage.
Photo Caption: Broadway greats Tommy Tune and Chita Rivera backstage at Enlow Recital Hall after the world premiere of Chita & Tune, Just in Time, which kicked-off the Kean Stage 2017-2018 season on Saturday, September 16.