Explore the extraordinary journey of Broadway icon Chita Rivera, spanning six decades, from her tomboy beginnings to triumphs and setbacks. Uncover the indelible mark she left on the stage, defying odds and captivating audiences. A tale of resilience, passion, and the enduring legacy of a true Broadway legend.
Chita Rivera, a luminary of Broadway with a career spanning over six decades and more than 20 musicals, has passed away at 91, as confirmed by her daughter, Lisa Mordente.
Renowned for her Tony Award-winning performances in iconic roles like Anita in West Side Story, Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma Kelly in Chicago, and Aurora in Kiss of the Spiderwoman, Rivera left an indelible mark on the Broadway stage.
Despite not being a Broadway enthusiast from childhood, Rivera, born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, D.C., discovered her passion for performance after being introduced to ballet.
A tomboy turned ballet enthusiast, she transitioned from a full scholarship at the School of American Ballet to landing a role in the Broadway show Call Me Madam. This marked her entry into the world of Broadway, and in 1957, she secured her breakthrough role as Anita in West Side Story.
Rivera’s versatility, showcasing athletic dancing, acting, and singing, positioned her as a triple threat and a sought-after talent on Broadway. From 1960 to 2013, she headlined both successful productions and setbacks, proving her resilience.
A serious taxi accident in 1986 left her with a shattered left leg, defying doctors’ predictions that she would never dance again. She adapted her performances but continued to captivate audiences.
Throughout her illustrious career, Rivera garnered numerous accolades, including multiple Tony Awards, a lifetime achievement honor, a Kennedy Center accolade, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. Unwaveringly devoted to the stage, she remained a Broadway legend, with her impact transcending television and film.
Laurence Maslon, co-producer of the PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, aptly captures Chita Rivera‘s essence, stating, “She was everything Broadway was meant to be — spontaneous, compelling, and talented as hell for decades and decades on Broadway. Once you saw her, you never forgot her.”