Broadway legend Chita Rivera dies at age 91

Chita Rivera up close
Broadway icon Chita Rivera has died. Pic credit: ©

Chita Rivera, the legendary Broadway performer, has passed away at the age of 91. 

The celebrated entertainer, winner of multiple Tony Awards, had a highly successful theater career that spanned almost seven decades. 

Known for her iconic roles, such as Anita in West Side Story, Velma in Chicago, and Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, Rivera began her Broadway journey in the 1950s, securing roles in productions like Can-Can and Mr. Wonderful. 

Joining the original cast of West Side Story in 1957 marked a pivotal moment in her career, propelling her to Broadway stardom. Shortly afterward, she earned a Tony Award nomination for the musical Bye Bye Birdie alongside Dick Van Dyke. 

Rivera’s longtime publicist, Merle Frimark, confirmed her passing to CNN, stating that she died peacefully in New York on Tuesday after a brief illness. 

With a remarkable 10 Tony Award nominations and wins for The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman, Rivera leaves behind a legacy that has garnered tributes from colleagues and fans alike.

Tributes pour in for Chita Rivera

Rivera received tributes from many industry stars, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, who described her as a “trailblazer for Puerto Rico on Broadway.”

In a heartfelt tribute, he shared a memorable experience of having Chita Rivera make a cameo appearance in the 2021 film Tick, Tick…Boom! 

During the diner scene shoot, he recounted a moment when Rivera wasn’t initially available, leading him to leave an empty chair as a placeholder. Despite challenges and attempts to rearrange the set, he was determined to include Rivera. 

Eight months later, Rivera joined the cast during reshoots, becoming a highlight of the day. Lin-Manuel expressed his admiration, stating, “It remains one of the all-time joys of my life. She was magnificent. She IS magnificent, not ready for the past tense just yet.”

Rita Moreno, who played Anita in the first film version of West Side Story in 1961, shared a photo of the pair, describing her as “the essence of Broadway” and expressing her admiration for her work. 

Catherine Zeta-Jones reveals ‘deep connection’ to Chita Rivera in a touching tribute

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who earned an Oscar for her portrayal of Velma, expressed her deep admiration for Chita Rivera on Instagram. Zeta-Jones described Rivera’s incredible impact on her life, from childhood dreams of emulating her to the profound connection formed while playing Velma Kelly in Chicago.

Zeta-Jones acknowledged Rivera as an unparalleled talent, stating, “There will never, ever, be anyone like you Chita, ever. Dim the lights on Broadway! Or, may I suggest, we just plug the plug. I love you Chita, sleep tight my Queen.”

Chita Rivera was celebrated as a “triple threat” for her prowess in singing, dancing, and acting, leaving an indelible mark on Broadway with numerous hits. Recognized as a trailblazer for Latina women, her last Broadway appearance was in 2015 in The Visit alongside the late Welsh actor and director Roger Rees.

Chita Rivera was married to fellow West Side Story dancer Tony Mordente. They welcomed their daughter, Lisa, in 1958. However, the couple eventually parted ways, and they officially separated in 1966.

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