by Sandi Durell . . .

The 2023 Chita Rivera Awards on May 22 at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts proved to be one of the most exciting evenings in their history with an over-the-top enthusiastic audience that was non-stop applause. It’s a phenomenal achievement when hard-working dancers on and off-Broadway are celebrated with and by their own making everyone aware of why they are the backbone of every musical.

The evening was further enhanced with heartwarming videos throughout culminating in Chita Rivera presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to her longtime friend (and person she says is responsible for her career) John Kander, who also gives her goose bumps at the mention of his name! This was truly a tearful, heart-warming segment of the evening to witness both these legends overwhelmed with, and filling the theater with, love! John Kander, upon acceptance of this coveted award, said ‘pursuing happiness is a good thing’ thanking his husband Albert Stevenson (together for 46 years).

The opening Presenter, the extraordinary Jared Grimes (Funny Girl), offered up his thoughts in tap to “Who Taught Her Everything She Knows” followed by a video tribute by Ben Vereen to John Kander. Director Joe Lanteri (founder/director New York City Dance Alliance -NYCDA) spoke and it’s evident he’s made, and continues to make, many dreams come true.

Joe Lanteri with Bonnie Comely and Stewart F. Lane

The inimitable Christine Pedi (Mama Morton in Chicago and one of the funniest comics and great singers) proved her point as Joan Rivers, Ethel Merman, Liza, Bernadette to name a few.  Broadway legend Lee Roy Reams presented the Critics Choice Award to Jeffrey L. Page letting all ensemble members know ‘you do everything.’  Choreographer Jerry Mitchell presented the Ambassadors for the Arts Award to Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane   who make it possible for musicals to continue to be seen worldwide on their platform Broadway HD.

Bebe Neuwirth called John Kander a ‘world-class hugger – his music an expression of truth.’  One of the first songs John Kander & Fred Ebb wrote “You, You, You” was gorgeously sung by John Riddle.

There were multiple categories with multiple winners like Bob Fosse’s Dancin’ and New York, New York – jointly honored for Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show.

In the category of Outstanding Dancer in a Broadway Show three individuals won: Robyn Hurder for A Beautiful Noise, Jess LeProtto for A Beautiful Noise and Mattie Love for Bob Fosse’s Dancin’. The gender-free category had twice as many nominees and had planned to give trophies to two winners. However, the committee decided to choose three overall winners out of the 10 nominees.

Steven Hoggett took home the award for Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show for his work on A Beautiful  Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical.”

Producer Jeffrey L. Page, who co-directed and choreographed the 2022 revival of 1776, received the Douglas and Ethel Watt Critics’ Choice Award, which recognizes work outside of the established categories. It was presented by the one and only Lee Roy Reams letting all ensemble members know ‘you do everything.’

The Chita Rivera Awards was produced by Joe Lanteri, founder and executive director of the New York City Dance Alliance Foundation, Inc., in conjunction with Patricia Watt. The event benefitted the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation College Scholarship Program.

The NYC Dance Alliance Foundation College Scholarship Program was the beneficiary of the event. Since the inception of the NYC Dance Alliance Foundation, 4 million dollars have been awarded to over 400 dancers represented in 42 of the most prestigious college dance programs in the country.

A night that will live on paving new roads and new memories ahead for dancers.

Photos: Cynthia Reitman / Featured Image: John Kander, Chita Rivera, Joe Lanteri

The full list of 2023 Chita Rivera Awards nominations are below. Winners are notated in bold.

Outstanding Choreography in a Broadway Show
Steven Hoggett, “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical”
Casey Nicholaw, “Some Like It Hot”
Susan Stroman, “New York, New York”
Jennifer Weber, “& Juliet”

Outstanding Dancer in a Broadway Show
Robyn Hurder, “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical”
Jess LeProtto, “A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical”
Mattie Love, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
Clyde Alves, “New York, New York”
Peter John Chursin, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
Dylis Croman, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
J. Harrison Ghee, “Some Like It Hot”
Jacob Guzman, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
Kolton Krouse, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
Khori Michelle Petinaud, “Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”                                

Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show
“Bob Fosse’s Dancin’”
“New York, New York”
“& Juliet”
“A Beautiful Noise, The Neil Diamond Musical”
“Some Like It Hot”            

Outstanding Dancers in an Off-Broadway Show
Gaby Diaz, “Only Gold”
Ryan Steele, “Only Gold”

Outstanding Choreography in an Off-Broadway Show
Andy Blankenbuehler, “Only Gold”

Outstanding Choreography for a Theatrical Release
“13: The Musical,” Jamal Sims
“Babylon,” Mandy Moore
“Magic Mike’s Last Dance,” Luke Broadlick
“Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,” Ellen Kane
“Spirited,” Chloe Arnold

Outstanding Direction of a Documentary Release
“Everybody Dance,” Dan Watt
“Broadway Rising,” Amy Rice
“Moonage Daydream,” Brett Morgen

Special Awards

Lifetime Achievement Award
John Kander

Ambassadors For The Arts Award
BroadwayHD, founded by Bonnie Comley and Stewart F. Lane

Douglas and Ethel Watt Critics’ Choice Award
Jeffrey L. Page