Chita Rivera: Broadway legend and trailblazing Latina star dies at 91

Time Of Info By TOI Desk Report   January 31, 2024   Update on : January 31, 2024

Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera. Photo: Screengrab

Chita Rivera, one of Broadway’s most celebrated stars, has died at the age of 91, according to her daughter.

Rivera breathed her last in New York from a brief illness, said her daughter Lisa Mordente, reports BBC.

Chita Rivera, the three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway star, appeared in more than 20 Broadway musicals over six decades.

The legend created indelible roles such as Anita in West Side Story, Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, Aurora in Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and Velma Kelly in Chicago.

Laurence Maslon, co-producer of the 2004 PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, said Rivera “was everything Broadway was meant to be.”

Her father was a Puerto Rican and a mother of Scottish and Irish heritage.

Born in 1933 in Washington DC, Rivera began her Broadway career in the 1950s, landing roles in productions like Can-Can and Mr Wonderful.

The actress was part of the original West Side Story cast. She played the role of Anita in 1957.

Rivera was nominated for a Tony Award for her Rose in the musical Bye Bye Birdie alongside Dick Van Dyke.

She starred in another iconic role: vaudeville performer Velma Kelly in Chicago, a few decades later.

Rivera is celebrated for being a “triple-threat” – singing, dancing, and acting in numerous Broadway.

In 2015, Rivera played Claire Zachannassian, her last Broadway appearance, in The Visit alongside the late Welsh actor and director Roger Rees.

She was remembered by her colleagues and friends for her dazzling stage presence and outstanding achievements.

Actor Jason Alexander in a post on X said Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I have ever known. She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always.

In a reaction, actress Mia Farrow called Rivera “an authentic Broadway icon”.

The actress was the first Latina to be awarded Kennedy Center Honors in 2002. She was given to artists for lifetime achievements in performing arts.

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

Rivera was given a lifetime Tony award in 2018.


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