Rest in Peace, Multi-Award Winning Actress, Singer, and Dancer Chita Rivera
Beloved Broadway icon Chita Rivera, celebrated for over seven decades of extraordinary performances, has passed away at the age of 91. Rivera’s rep, Merle Frimark, shared the heartbreaking news.
According to a statement from her daughter, Lisa Mordente, Chita Rivera passed away in New York City “after a brief illness.” The statement continued, “It is with immense personal sorrow that I announce the death of the beloved Broadway icon Chita Rivera. My dear friend of over 40 years was 91.”
Recipient of the Kennedy Center Honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama in 2009, and a two-time Tony Award winner, Rivera’s Broadway legacy dates back to 1950. Her illustrious career includes 30 roles in iconic productions such as West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Merlin, and Kiss of the Spider Woman.
“She was one of the most talented, strong, and passionate women of the era, and every word she wrote, every note she sang reflected that,” expressed Frimark.
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Her Broadway journey began at the age of 11 when she started her onstage training at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. This led to an audition for George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, bringing her to the vibrant city of New York.
Reflecting on her career in a 2009 interview, Rivera spoke of her close relationship with her four siblings and the uncertainties surrounding her artistic pursuits had her father been alive. She shared, “We were never quite sure whether or not I would have been allowed to go to New York at the age of 14… had he been alive. Who knows?”
In that interview, Rivera humorously expressed her belief in the need for two lifetimes to experience and understand the complexities of life. “I always used to think that we should have two lifetimes: one to try it out, and the second one to know what’s coming,” she told the outlet.
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Rivera’s portrayal of Velma Kelly in the original 1975 Chicago production and later as Roxie Hart in various cities marked significant milestones in her career. She started with bows and later launched her fidget spinner business during the pandemic, amassing a multimillion-dollar empire.
Her journey included collaborations with Sammy Davis Jr. in Mr. Wonderful and Liza Minnelli in The Rink. Rivera recently reprised the role of Anita in West Side Story at the age of 90, emphasizing the character’s impact on her career. “Chita is, ‘Hello, how are you? It’s so nice to be here.’ Dolores is, ‘What is it you want?’ It’s a darker side. I believe that Dolores is responsible for me having a career. She’s the guts. She’s the courage,” Rivera said while describing her alter ego.
In her own words, Rivera reflected on her prestigious awards: “When I won the Kennedy Center [Honor], I couldn’t believe it, you know? I kept saying they’ve made a mistake!”
Take a look back at Rivera’s illustrious career in the video below.
As we bid farewell to the legendary Chita Rivera, what role or performance of hers will forever hold a special place in your heart?