Broadway star Chita Rivera dies at 91

Connie Queline

Broadway star Chita Rivera dies at 91

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One of Broadway’s most celebrated stars, Chita Rivera, has died at the age of 91, her daughter said in a statement.

Daughter Lisa Mordente said Rivera died peacefully in New York from a brief illness.

The Tony-award winning entertainer is known for her successful theatre career spanning nearly seven decades.

Some of her most notable roles include Anita in West Side Story and Rose in Bye Bye Birdie.

Rivera was born in 1933 in Washington DC to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of Scottish and Irish heritage.

She began her Broadway career in the 1950s, landing roles in productions like Can-Can and Mr Wonderful.

In 1957, she was part of the original West Side Story cast where she played the role of Anita – a performance that paved her way to Broadway stardom.

Soon after, Rivera was nominated for a Tony Award her portrayal of Rose in the musical Bye Bye Birdie alongside Dick Van Dyke. A few decades later, she starred in another iconic role: vaudeville performer Velma Kelly in Chicago.

She is celebrated for being a “triple-threat” – singing, dancing and acting in numerous Broadway hits throughout the years, as well as being a trailblazer for Latina women.

Rivera’s last Broadway appearance was in 2015, where she played Claire Zachannassian in The Visit alongside the late Welsh actor and director Roger Rees.

Colleagues and friends of Rivera’s remembered her for her dazzling stage presence and outstanding achievements.

“The incomparable Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I’ve ever known,” said actor Jason Alexander in a post on X. “She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always.”

Actress Mia Farrow called her “an authentic Broadway icon”.

“No one who was fortunate enough to have seen any of her performances will ever forget the experience,” Ms Farrow said on X.

The Tony Awards called her a “Broadway legend … whose grace, talent and passion left an unforgettable mark on the world of theatre”.

Rivera’s work earned her two Tony Awards for best actress in a musical for The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She was nominated for eight others.

In 2002, Rivera was the first Latina to be awarded Kennedy Center Honors, which is given to artists for lifetime achievements in performing arts.

She is also a recipient of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the US, given to her by former President Barack Obama in 2009 for her work as an “agent of change”.

In 2018, Rivera was given a lifetime Tony award. Last year she published her autobiography, Chita: A Memoir, which became a New York Times best seller.

Related Topics

  • Broadway theatre
  • Musical theatre
  • United States

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