Toronto: St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Bluma Apple Theatre; June 1992 - August 1992

London: Shaftesbury Theatre, opened October 20, 1992

Broadway: Broadhurst Theater - 235 W. 44th St.
First Broadway Preview:
April 19, 1993
Opening Night: May 3, 1993
Closed: Jul 1, 1995 (Chita was succeeded by Vanessa Williams and Maria Conchita Alonso. Carol Lawrence filled in for her during vacations).

Total Broadway Performances: 904


Rumors that Chita Rivera would play the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman began to circulate from the time the project was first announced. She had starred in another Kander-Ebb-McNally musical, The Rink. After a preliminary workshop production of the show was staged on the SUNY Purchase campus in the summer of 1990 the rumor became even more persistent.

The quality of the initial workshop, starring John Rubenstein as Molina, was obscured by the controversy surrounding the desire of the producers to keep critics out, and the desire of critics to see and review the work. For a while it seemed as if Broadway would never see the completed work -- and indeed, Broadway had to wait until after the show debuted in Toronto and had an extended run in London.

Given the rocky road, the fact that the show won the London Evening Standard Drama Award for "Best Musical" within a couple of weeks of its West End premiere at the Shaftesbury Theatre in October 1992, was a considerable triumph. The award honored the creative team (composer and lyricist John Kander and Fred Ebb, librettist Terrence McNally, director Harold Prince), the producer Garth H Drabinsky and The Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada, and the cast led by Chita Rivera, Brent Carver, and Anthony Crivello, as well as the scenic designs of Jerome Sirlin and the choreography of Vincent Paterson and Rob Marshall.

London’s Sheridan Morley wrote that the award “established that even in the depths of a recession, while many managements were tempted to play safe with songbook analogies or classical revivals, there was still room in the West End for a musical which has the courage to think while it sings and dances. As can be heard from the original cast recording, Kiss of the Spider Woman is a challenging, difficult, dangerous show; but songs like ‘Dear One’ are going to haunt us forever, as is the memory of an odd-couple prison partnership and a heart-breaking love story about the movies of the mind and the realities of a prison cell.”

The story of the show goes back to 1986, when Fred Ebb saw the Hollywood film made of Manuel Puig's brilliant novel about the gay window-dresser and the political activist who share a South American prison cell. Hostile to each other at first, Molina tells the stories of movies he has seen to distract them from their surroundings and in time the two travel, within their confines, from mutual distrust to a remarkable, if burdened, kind of love.

Ebb took the idea of Kiss of the Spider Woman as a musical to composer John Kander, and together they took it to director Harold Prince. Prince, of course, was the man who had the first brought Kander & Ebb together for Flora the Red Menace and then Cabaret, two shows on unlikely subjects, turning the latter, a musical about the rise of Nazi Germany into a Tony Award-winning hit.

Harold Prince brought Argentine novelist Manuel Puig to New York City to meet Kander and Ebb, though playwright Terrence McNally would eventual join Kander and Ebb (with whom he had previously collaborated with on The Rink) in shaping Kiss of the Spider Woman into a stage musical. The McNally script is more closely aligned with Puig’s novel than the film version. The novel makes use of numerous movie narratives (not just the single Nazi story employed in the film version) and is more hard-hitting than the Hollywood film script.

When the cast for the full-blown production was announced, Chita, indeed, had been cast as Aurora, (once again reunited with Kander/Ebb/McNally, the same team responsible for her Tony Award-winning triumph in The Rink) as well as Canadian star Brent Carver, celebrated for his classical, contemporary and musical theatre repertoires, as Molina, and Anthony Crivello, who had worked on Broadway in both Evita and Les Miserables, as the revolutionary Valentin. The new staging brought in at least eight new songs, a drastically revised book, and a set and lighting design by Jerome Sirlin and Howell Binkley which relied more on state-of-the-art computerized projections than Hollywood camp for Molina's movie fantasies. The result was a total transformation. The strategy of routing the show through Toronto and London first allowed Spider Woman to arrive as a bona fide hit.


Hirschfeld's drawing of Spider Woman

 


The eye-popping publicity for Spider Woman featured Chita's face.

 

Opening Night Production Credits

Broadhurst Theatre Owned / Operated by The Shubert Organization (Gerald Schoenfeld: Chairman; Bernard B. Jacobs: President).

Produced by Livent (U.S.) Inc..

Book by Terrence McNally; Music by John Kander; Lyrics by Fred Ebb; Based on the novel by Manuel Puig; Music orchestrated by Michael Gibson; Dance music by David Krane.

Directed by Harold Prince; Choreographed by Vincent Paterson; Additional choreography by Rob Marshall; Assistant Choreographer for Mr. Paterson: Kim Blank; Assistant Choreographer for Mr. Marshall: Kathleen Marshall.

Scenic Design by Jerome Sirlin; Costume Design by Florence Klotz; Lighting Design by Howell Binkley; Sound Design by Martin Levan; Projection Design by Jerome Sirlin.

General Manager: Frank P. Scardino; Company Manager: Jim Brandeberry.

Production Stage Manager: Beverley Randolph; Technical Director: Don Finlayson; Technical Supervisor: Christopher C. Smith; Stage Manager: Clayton Phillips.

Musical Supervisor: Jeffrey Huard; Conducted by Jeffrey Huard; Musical Coordinator: John Monaco.

Assistant to Mr. Prince: Ruth Mitchell; Livent Resident Director: Anne Allan; Dance Captain: Keith McDaniel; Casting: Johnson-Liff & Zerman; Livent Casting Director: Beth Russell; General Press Representative (US): Mary Bryant; General Press Representative (Canada): Norman Zaiger; Advertising: LeDonne, Wilner, & Weiner, Inc.



Opening Night Cast

Chita Rivera, Spider Woman / Aurora

Brent Carver, Molina

Anthony Crivello, Valentin

Kirsti Carnahan, Marta

Herndon Lackey, Warden

Merle Louise, Molina's Mother

Jerry Christakos, Gabriel and Prisoner

Joshua Finkel, Amnesty International Observer and Prisoner Emilio

Colton Green, Escaping Prisoner and Partial Swing

Philip Hernández, Esteban

Michael McCormick, Marcos

Keith McDaniel, Aurora's Man and Prisoner

Gregory Mitchell, Swing

Robert Montano, Aurora's Man and Prisoner

Dan O'Grady, Aurora's Man and Prisoner

Aurelio Padron, Prisoner and Window Dresser at Montoya's and Prisoner

Raymond Rodriguez, Aurora's Man and Prisoner

Gary Schwartz, Prisoner Fuentes

John Norman Thomas, Prisoner and Religious Fanatic

Standbys: Lorraine Foreman (Molina's Mother), Dorothy Stanley (Marta, Spider Woman / Aurora).

Understudies: Joshua Finkel (Molina), Philip Hernández (Valentin), Michael McCormick (Warden), Dan O'Grady (Gabriel), Gary Schwartz (Amnesty International Observer, Esteban, Valentin), John Norman Thomas (Marcos).

1993 Tony Awards:
Best Actor (Musical) - Brent Carver
Best Actress (Musical) - Chita Rivera
Best Actor (Featured Role-Musical) - Anthony Crivello
Nomination - Director (Musical) - Harold Prince
Best Musical - The Live Entertainment Corporation of Canada
Best Musical - Garth Drabinsky
Best Book (Musical) - Terrence McNally
Best Score - John Kander
Best Score - Fred Ebb
Best Costume Designer - Florence Klotz
Nomination - Best Choreographer - Vincent Paterson
Nomination - Best Choreographer - Rob Marshall
Nomination - Best Lighting Designer - Howell Binkley

1992 - London Evening Standard Drama Award - Best Musical


Chita plants the fatal "Kiss" of the Spider Woman on Canadian star, Brent Carver.


Spider Woman Trivia
During Chita's vacations, she was replaced in Spider Woman by her West Side Story co-star, Carol Lawrence.