Chita Rivera, Tony Award-winning actress and singer, dead at 91

Chita Rivera, Tony Award-winning actress and singer, dead at 91

Chita Rivera, the legendary performer known for her iconic roles in Broadway productions such as “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and “West Side Story,” has passed away at the age of 91. Rivera, with a record 10 Tony Award nominations and two wins, had a career spanning decades and played pivotal roles in the world of stage and screen.

Rivera’s death was confirmed by her longtime publicist, Merle Frimark, who stated that she died “peacefully” in New York after a brief illness. Born in Washington, DC, in 1933, Rivera began her journey as a ballerina at the age of 9 and later received a scholarship to the School of American Ballet from renowned choreographer George Balanchine.

Recognized as one of Broadway’s most notable triple-threats—actor, singer, and dancer—Rivera paved the way for Latinx artists, originating the role of Anita in the original Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” in 1957. Her stage career included starring roles in “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The Rink,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” among others.

Rivera received numerous accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented by President Barack Obama in 2009 and a Kennedy Center Honors recognition in 2002. In 2018, she was honored with the Special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre.

Apart from her stage achievements, Rivera appeared in film adaptations of musicals such as “Sweet Charity” and “Chicago.” Her most recent screen credit was in Netflix’s 2021 movie “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

Lin-Manuel Miranda, director of “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” called Rivera “the trailblazer for Puerto Rico on Broadway” and celebrated her as a magnificent and enduring presence. Rita Moreno, who won an Academy Award for playing Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of “West Side Story,” referred to Rivera as “eternal” and the essence of Broadway.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ariana DeBose, both of whom portrayed roles originated by Rivera on Broadway, paid tribute to her incredible impact and legacy. Stephanie Pope, a Broadway actress and friend of Rivera, emphasized that Rivera achieved a standard of excellence that will never be matched.

Rivera’s daughter, Lisa Mordente, announced that the star’s funeral would be private, and she is survived by her daughter and siblings. The theater community and the world have lost a true legend in Chita Rivera.