The world of musical theatre has lost one of its brightest stars. Chita Rivera, the iconic performer who originated some of the most memorable roles in Broadway history, passed away on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, at the age of 91. Her daughter, Lisa Mordente, confirmed the news in a statement, saying that Rivera died peacefully in New York City after a brief illness.
Rivera was a trailblazer for Latina artists, as well as a versatile and charismatic entertainer who could sing, act, and dance with equal flair. She made her Broadway debut in 1951 as a dancer in Call Me Madam, and went on to star in shows such as Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Mr. Wonderful, and Seventh Heaven. But it was her breakthrough role as Anita, the fiery and loyal friend of Maria, in the original 1957 production of West Side Story that catapulted her to stardom. Rivera earned her first Tony Award nomination for her performance, and reprised the role in the London production.
Rivera continued to dazzle audiences with her talent and charisma in a string of hit musicals, such as Bye Bye Birdie, Bajour, Chicago, The Rink, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She won two Tony Awards for Best Actress in a Musical for the latter two shows, both written by the legendary duo of John Kander and Fred Ebb, who became her longtime collaborators and friends. She also received a special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre in 2018, making her one of the most decorated performers in Broadway history.
Rivera also appeared in films, such as Sweet Charity, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and Tick, Tick… Boom!, and on television, in shows such as The Judy Garland Show, The Carol Burnett Show, and Will & Grace. She was the first Hispanic woman to receive the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor in 2002, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. She also published her autobiography, Chita: A Memoir, in 2023.
Rivera was admired and loved by her peers and fans alike, who praised her for her passion, professionalism, and generosity. She was also a devoted mother to her only child, Lisa, who followed in her footsteps as a performer. Rivera was married twice, first to dancer Tony Mordente, and later to actor and director Robert Reardon. Both marriages ended in divorce.
Rivera’s legacy will live on in the hearts of millions who were touched by her artistry and spirit. She once said, “I don’t see the end of my career. I see the end of my life.” She lived her life to the fullest, and gave her all to every role she played. She was a true legend, and a source of inspiration for generations of performers. She will be dearly missed, but never forgotten. Rest in peace, Chita Rivera.
Chita Rivera, legendary Broadway singer and actor, dies at 91. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lil42XaRFng
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