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Chita Rivera, Tony Award-winning Broadway legend, dies at 91 – Nationwide

Chita Rivera, Tony Award-winning Broadway legend, dies at 91 - Nationwide


Chita Rivera, the dynamic dancer, singer and actor who garnered 10 Tony nominations, profitable twice, in an extended Broadway profession that solid a path for Latina artists and shrugged off a near-fatal automobile accident, died Tuesday. She was 91.

Rivera’s demise was introduced by her daughter, Lisa Mordente, who mentioned she died in New York after a short sickness.

Rivera first gained large discover in 1957 as Anita within the unique manufacturing of West Aspect Story and was nonetheless dancing on Broadway along with her trademark power a half-century later in 2015’s The Go to.


Chita Rivera in ‘West Aspect Story.’.

John Springer Assortment/CORBIS/Corbis through Getty Pictures

“I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t shifting or telling a narrative to you or singing a track,” she instructed The Related Press then. “That’s the spirit of my life, and I’m actually so fortunate to have the ability to do what I really like, even at the moment in my life.”

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In August 2009, Rivera was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the best honor the U.S. may give a civilian. Rivera put her hand over her coronary heart and shook her head in wonderment as President Barack Obama introduced the medal. In 2013, she was the marshal on the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York Metropolis.

Rivera rose from refrain woman to star, collaborating alongside the way in which with a lot of Broadway’s biggest skills, together with Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Fosse, Gower Champion, Michael Kidd, Harold Prince, Jack Cole, Peter Gennaro and John Kander and Fred Ebb.

She rebounded from a automobile accident in 1988 that crushed her proper leg and have become an indefatigable star on the highway. She was on Broadway in a raucous manufacturing of The Thriller of Edwin Drood in 2012 and later The Go to, incomes one other finest actress Tony nomination.

“She will’t rehearse aside from full-out,” mentioned playwright Terrence McNally in 2005. “She will’t carry out aside from full-out, it doesn’t matter what the scale of the home. She’s going to be there 101 per cent for that viewers.”


Chita Rivera dancing in New York Metropolis.

Ted Streshinsky/CORBIS/Corbis through Getty Pictures

She received Tonys for The Rink in 1984 and Kiss of the Spider Lady in 1993. When accepting a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018, she mentioned, “I wouldn’t commerce my life within the theater for something, as a result of theater is life.”

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She was nominated for the award seven different occasions, for Bye Bye Birdie, which opened in 1960; Chicago, 1975; Deliver Again Birdie, 1981; Merlin, 1983; Jerry’s Ladies, 1985; 9, 2003; and Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life, 2005.

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“I don’t assume we’ve got sufficient unique musicals,” she instructed The Related Press in 2012. “I do know I’m being quaint, however the theater is the place the place music, lyrics, phrases, surroundings and tales come collectively. And I’ve been blessed sufficient to have carried out a number of reveals once they actually did. They take you locations and so they’re daring. That’s what we’d like.”

Her albums embody 16 tracks pulled from her unique solid recordings and put out as a part of Sony’s Legends of Broadway collection and two solo CDs — And Now I Sing for a tiny file label within the Sixties and And Now I Swing in 2009 for Yellow Sound Label.

Within the 1993 musical Kiss of the Spider Lady, Rivera performed the title function, a glamourous film star on the middle of the fantasy lifetime of an inmate in a South American jail. The story, from a novel by Manuel Puig, had already been made into an Oscar-winning 1985 film.

In his evaluate, then-Related Press drama critic Michael Kuchwara wrote that Rivera “is greater than a musical theater star. She’s a drive of nature — which is strictly what is required for the function of the Spider Lady. Along with her Louise Brooks haircut, brassy voice and lithe dancer’s physique, Rivera dominates the stage at any time when she seems.”

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In 1975, she originated the function of Velma Kelly (to Gwen Verdon’s Roxie Hart) within the unique Broadway manufacturing of Chicago. Rivera had a small function within the 2002 movie model, whereas Catherine Zeta-Jones received the most effective supporting actress Oscar as Velma — simply as Rita Moreno had picked up an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in West Aspect Story.

The songwriters for Chicago, Kander and Ebb, additionally wrote Rivera’s first Tony-winning efficiency, for The Rink. In profitable the Tony for finest actress in a musical, Rivera topped the present’s prime star, Liza Minnelli, who additionally had been nominated. The 2 performed a mom and daughter who wrestle to rebuild their relationship after an extended estrangement; the setting is an old school curler rink that has seen higher days.


Robert De Niro, Chita Rivera and Liza Minnelli circa 1984 in New York Metropolis.

Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Pictures

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Spider Lady had been her first Broadway present since 1986, when she suffered a damaged leg within the visitors accident whereas she was showing in Jerry’s Ladies, a Broadway tribute to the songs of Jerry Herman.

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On the Tony awards a couple of weeks later, she flashed her solid and belted out Placed on a Comfortable Face from the musical Bye, Bye, Birdie.

It took months of bodily remedy to deliver again her dancing expertise. She instructed The Related Press: “It by no means entered my thoughts that I wouldn’t dance once more. By no means. I can’t clarify to you why. It’s arduous work getting again however that’s what I’m doing.”

“My spirit continues to be there.”

Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was born Jan. 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C. Her Puerto Rican father, Pedro del Rivero, was a musician who performed in america Navy Band, who died when she was 7. Her mom was Scottish and Italian descent.

She took dance lessons after which entered the distinguished College of American Ballet in New York. Her first theater gig, at age 17, was within the touring firm of Name Me Madam. That led to refrain stints in such reveals as Guys and Dolls and Can-Can.

In her 2023 memoir, Chita: A Memoir, one other lady steals scene after scene: her self-proclaimed alter ego, Dolores. Unapologetic and fiery, Dolores was the unfiltered model of Chita and served as motivation in occasions of self-doubt. In a single chapter, Rivera writes that she doesn’t learn critiques “or Dolores simply would possibly spend money on a dozen voodoo dolls.”

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“I include — and I believe all of us do — I include two folks: Dolores and Conchita,” Rivera sain in an interview with the AP that 12 months. “Conchita, she’s the one which has been taking all of the glory, you recognize. She’s been doing all of the reveals, however Dolores is the one which’s pushed her into it. And he or she’s been protecting me on monitor, so I hearken to Dolores. I hearken to her. She’s rising in my head now as we communicate.”

Amongst different early appearances on the New York stage have been roles in The Shoestring Revue, 1955; a 1955 musical model of Seventh Heaven starring Ricardo Montalban; and Mr. Fantastic, a 1956 present starring Sammy Davis Jr.

“I can’t consider that I’ve been given the present to look again and relive my life,” she instructed The Related Press shortly earlier than The Dancer’s Life opened on Broadway in late 2005. “It’s about how anyone can do it — in case you actually consider it, you’ve gotten the great fortune, you do all the suitable issues and you actually work arduous.”

Rivera, who had a relationship with the now-deceased Davis, married fellow West Aspect Story performer Tony Mordente in 1957. The wedding led to divorce. Their daughter, Lisa Mordente, additionally turned a performer who often appeared on Broadway, garnering a Tony nomination in 1982 for Marlowe.



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