Rita Moreno @ Feinstein’s at the Nikko
Feinstein’s At the Nikko, San Francisco, CA, April 21, 2017
One might think that Rita Moreno, at age 85, might rest on her laurels and live the easy life. Part of the elite group of EGOT winners (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony); you can add on a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, a Kennedy Centers Honor Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award and the Library of Congress Living Legends Award. But resting is the last thing on Rita’s mind these days. In addition to her live concert performances, Moreno is busy hawking her bestselling book Rita Moreno: A Memoir, filming season two of her Netflix series One Day at a Time and basking in the glow of her 2015 Spanish favorites CD Una Vez Más.
Looking radiant, Moreno launched into the perfect tune for “women of a certain age”, Lee Adams and Charles Strouse’s “But Alive” from Applause, the musical based on the short story on which All About Eve had been based, Mary Orr’s “The Wisdom of Eve. Moreno, who made her Broadway debut at 13, owns this song like a well-worn glove, accentuating the performer’s thrill of being panicked, manic, somehow calm and most definitely alive.
Amusing backstories and personal anecdotes pepper the between song banter. An LA martini drinker, Rita and her husband are blitzed on Napa wines when they casually agree to move to Berkeley. Her hillside home is the setting for “The Folks Who Live on the Hill”, a lovely romantic tune by Kern and Hammerstein. Ary Barroso’s finger-snapping samba “Brazil (Aquarela do Brasil)” is a Moreno favorite, appearing on both her self-titled 2000 CD as well as in Spanish on Una Vez Más. Accompanied by the elegant Russ Kassoff on piano, Andrew Higgins on bass and local fave David Rokeach on drums, Moreno shone on Jerry Herman’s poignant breakup song “I Won’t Send Roses” from Mack and Mabel.
Another humorous tale of her 8-year romance with Marlon Brando has her sing a few bars of Marilyn and Alan Bergman’s “The Way He Makes Me Feel”. A nice mashup of Irving Berlin’s “Lost in His Arms” and the Mort Dixon/Billy Rose/Harry Warren hit “I Found a Million Dollar Baby (In a Five and Ten Cent Store)” and the Frishberg’s ditty “Blizzard of Lies” filled out the evening of reminiscences . Moreno is genuinely grateful for all she’s created and the honors and acclaim she’s been rewarded. Now in her 7th decade of performing, being onstage, in a recording studio or in front of the cameras is life giving energy for the legendary Moreno.