Chita Rivera, The Broadway Musical Legend, Dies At 91

She played iconic roles in Broadway shows like West Side Story (Anita) and Chicago (Velma Kelly), for which she won two Tony Awards for both roles.

Written by Rachel Davis

On Feb 1, 2024 – 3 minutes read

chita rivera

Chita Rivera, The “First Lady” Of The Broadway Musical, passes away at the age of 91. Beyond her revolutionary Broadway work, Rivera held an extensive career in film and television starring in movies like Sweet Charity, appearing in seven episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show, and even voice acting later in her career for the children’s show Dora the Explorer.

A Prodigious Tribute To The Broadway Icon And A Histrionic Legend

Over a career spanning nearly 70 years, the consummate triple-threat performer set new standards for dance, song interpretation, and grace. Now, the theater world mourns while celebrating her legacy.

Chita Rivera won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical, first in 1957 for acing the role of Anita in West Side Story. She won again in 1986 for her portrayal of Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman, making her only the third woman to win multiple Best Actress Tonys at that point. She was given a Lifetime Achievement Tony in 2018.

The marquees of Broadway theaters dimmed their lights for one minute in honor of Rivera’s passing. Her longtime colleagues and friends like Moreno, Reinking, and Aguilera have scheduled a public memorial at the Winter Garden Theatre. They will pay tribute to a woman widely considered musical theater royalty by giving speeches and singing.

Her Legendary Career

Rivera was iconic in the world of Broadway theater. She gave life to some of the most well-known roles in musical theater history. Her show-stopping dance numbers and captivating stage presence made her a legend on the Broadway stage.

Apart from Broadway, Rivera has also performed across the U.S. and internationally. Rivera was highly acclaimed and awarded for her illustrious performing career. She was a ten-time Tony Award nominee and won two Tonys for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She also received numerous Drama Desk Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, and eventually, the distinguished Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre in 2018.

The Different Stages of Her Presence

Chita Rivera was born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero on January 23, 1933, in Washington D.C. One of five siblings, Rivera had her father die when she was just seven years old, leaving her mother to raise the children. She stayed very close to her siblings Julio, Armando, and Lola her whole life. Rivera married fellow dancer Tony Mordente, with whom she had one daughter named Lisa.

Rivera began training intensely as a dancer from a young age, winning a scholarship to the prestigious School of American Ballet by 16. During her teenage years, she also started dancing at the iconic Palladium nightclub in New York City, where she said she first discovered my heartbeat and sex appeal. This drive and talent catapulted Rivera to stardom on the Broadway stage.

She rose to fame, playing the iconic role of Anita in the 1957 original production of West Side Story. Rivera also starred in many other landmark Broadway shows. They include Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She was the first Latina to receive the honor of Kennedy Center Honors in 2002. Other honors included the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom for her pioneering performing arts work.

Rivera passed away following a brief illness on January 30, leaving an indelible legacy on Broadway. She is remembered for her magnetic performing style and for paving the way for Hispanic representation on stage. Rivera brought joy through dance, song, and acting to devoted audiences, and her courage and talent inspired generations of performers who viewed Rivera as Broadway royalty.

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Broadway has lost one of its brightest stars. But thanks to her legendary performances preserved in film and cast albums, Chita Rivera’s artistry will continue inspiring performers and devotees forever. Just as Rivera herself said after receiving her 2018 Lifetime Achievement Tony, “Let future generations find inspiration from how I spent my life.”

  1. Tony Awards (n.d) ITonyawards [Online] Available At:

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Hi! I am Rachel; a mom and a hair and makeup artist. I am very old-school and I love sharing my experiences on parenting, marriage, and daily life hacks. What is more fun than that! I believe that to take care of anything, you have to love and give your heart and soul to it. Writing has been my passion ever since I was little and it’s the best way I express myself – my thoughts and dreams. Here, I write about everything that I love.

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