"Where You Are" - Moments of Perfection
Every once in a while you experience a moment in theatre of sheer perfection. Maybe not the entire show, but moments that make your heart skip a beat. In 1993, I made my way to the Broadhurst Theatre to see a musical I had been anticipating with every fiber of my being: Chita Rivera in Kiss of the Spider Woman. To be honest, I had not read the book or seen the film and the only allure the show held for me was my first chance to see Ms. Rivera ignite the footlights. She is unlike any of our other divas. There is a humble way about her. She wears her half-century of service like a badge of honor rather than a diva's crown. She is accessible in ways that some of the other big stars are not. I had loved her from the first minute I put on the original Broadway cast of Bye, Bye, Birdie and heard her expertly navigate her way though "An English Teacher." I was hooked.
I had no idea what Kiss of the Spider Woman would be, but I knew I had to see CHITA! I was soon enticed, not only into her web, but into the darkness and mystery of a musical that took place in the dankness of a South American prison. My heart broke for Molina, the gay window dresser (serving time for corruption of a minor) who could find a glimmer of light and hope in even the most dire of situations. The Kander and Ebb score was packed full of sometimes spooky, sometimes joyous, music. Molina, in an effort to pass the time behind bars, imagines and reenacts his favorite movie musicals that starred Aurora (Rivera), even as she climbs her way through the prison bars (her enormous spider web of sorts), ushering in the impending death of the window dresser.
"Where You Are" is one of these transformative songs that Molina conjures. The prisoners become chorus boys and Aurora steps in dressed in a white tuxedo to lead them through a glorious Technicolor dream. With Latin rhythms and an urgent pace, the song, about imaging yourself to someplace better than your present situation, manages to be both optimistic and foreshadowing of something sinister to come. It builds to a frenzy before relaxing into a quiet moment with Aurora, who then builds to her own maniacal reassurance of Molina's delusions. Sitting front row center at the Broadhurst, I couldn't breathe. Music, lyrics, choreography, scenery, costumes, and performer melded perfectly in that moment and "Where You Are" remains, to this day, the song that finally knocked the wind out of me.
What song does this for you?