Richard is a member of the Talkin' Broadway website who has posted extensively on Chita's early shows in San Francisco. He was kind enough to send me the following review and several other things that I have put on the site:
I saw the show three times here in San Francisco. Each time, there were changes and I am sorry to say that the first act was still a mess. She had knocked out all the Motown numbers that she did on opening night... (Mike: Her first night, she performed a Motown Medley that included "Stand By Me" that was not very good...) She incorporated a medley of eight numbers called Man/Woman songs. The male dancers sang female songs and she sang songs that men usually sing. It just did not work. It was very amateurish.
In one song, I can't even remember the name, it was so bad, the orchestra in back of her suddenly changed tempo. She turned around and faced the orchestra as if to say "What the Hell". The orchestra suddenly changed tempo. It was so loud you could not hear the words and frankly I did not care.
She incorporated one number that was a show stopper in the first act, but why in the first act since it was from "Chicago"?? The number was "Me and My Baby". She was terrific with her six male dancers.. They did a great Fosse.
To add insult to injury, she closed the first act with singing the Figaro song from "Barber of Seville".
The second act she was in her element singing songs from "Chicago" West Side Story", Sweet Charity" and "Kiss of Spider Woman". Here she finally came into her own. For a 64 year old woman she still can kick high. Her splendid dancing legs seemed as good as ever and she still could kick a tambourine held in the outstretched hands of a dancing partner. Chita in her final numbers was stunning doing songs from "Kiss". She did several changes in costumes from an all white tux to a beautiful black cap covering her who body. She looked like the spider woman.
Dancers improved each time I saw them. The orchestra arrangements did not flatter Chita. They could soften up.
Richard got an opportunity to see Chita after the show in her dressing room, and it appeared that she is well aware of the many problems that the show had at this point.
(I had earlier said that Richard had a chance to speak with her, but this is more on observation of what was going on in the dressing room than a direct, extended conversation with her. Thanks for the clarification, Richard.)
Richard relates that "...she was not happy with the show either. She did not like the stage floor of the Golden Gate Theatre because it is concrete. It was hard on her feet. [She] Also thought the theatre was too large."
(Something I note when I read the updated Playbill Online article is this quote: "Spokesperson Janine Fawcett said she was not sure whether the show would open on Broadway in the 1997-1998 season or 1998-1999, but [emphasis mine] finding an appropriate theatre was an important consideration.)
In talking to Richard in e-mail, he not only noted that Chita didn't like the huge size of the Golden Gate Theatre, but also that she didn't like the concrete stage floor, which was murder on her for her dancing.