Broadway Icon Chita Rivera Passes Away at 91

Broadway Icon Chita Rivera Passes Away at 91

Chita Rivera, the legendary Broadway performer celebrated as the “first great triple threat,” has died at the age of 91, as confirmed by her daughter, Lisa Mordente. Over her illustrious career spanning six decades, Rivera graced the Broadway stage in more than 20 musicals, earning three Tony Awards for her outstanding contributions to the theater world. Her iconic roles include Anita in West Side Story, Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma Kelly in Chicago, and Aurora in Kiss of the Spiderwoman.

Described by Laurence Maslon, co-producer of the PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, as embodying everything Broadway stood for, Rivera was known for her spontaneity, compelling performances, and immense talent. Despite not starting as a Broadway enthusiast, having initially pursued ballet, she swiftly transitioned to the stage after landing a role in the Broadway tour of Call Me Madam in 1957.

Rivera’s breakout role came with West Side Story, where she showcased her athletic dancing skills and acting and singing prowess. Recognized as the first great triple threat, she could seamlessly deliver on all fronts, a quality highly valued by Broadway directors like Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse.

Despite facing adversity, including a serious taxi accident in 1986 that left her with a shattered leg and a prognosis of never dancing again, Rivera continued to captivate audiences with her resilience. She adapted her performances but never lost her star power. Rivera received numerous accolades throughout her career, including several Tony Awards, a Kennedy Center honor, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

While Rivera did not extensively venture into television or film, her unwavering dedication to the stage solidified her status as a true Broadway legend. As Maslon emphasizes, the essence of these legends is best experienced live on Broadway, a sentiment that holds true for Chita Rivera’s remarkable legacy.