Respected and pioneering Tony-winning dancer and singer Chita Rivera dies at 91


NEW YORK (AP) — Chita Rivera, the dynamic dancer, singer and actress who received 10 Tony nominations in her long Broadway career, won twice, paved a path for Latina performers and survived a fatal car crash, died Tuesday. He died on She was 91 years old.

Rivera’s death was announced by his daughter, Lisa Mordante, who said he died in New York after a brief illness.

Rivera was first widely noticed as Anita in the original production of “West Side Story” in 1957, and she was dancing on Broadway with her trademark energy in 2015’s “The Visit” half a century later.

She then told The Associated Press, “If I wasn’t walking around or telling you a story or singing a song I wouldn’t know what to do.” “That’s my passion in life, and I’m really lucky to be able to do what I love at this time in my life.”

In August 2009, Rivera was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor awarded by the United States to a civilian. When President Barack Obama presented the medal, Rivera placed her hand on her heart and shook her head in surprise. In 2013, she was a marshal in the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.

FILE - President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Chita Rivera at the White House in Washington, August 12, 2009.  Rivera, a dynamic dancer, singer and actress who received 10 Tony nominations, winning twice in her long run on Broadway.  A careerist who paved the way for Latina artists died Tuesday.  She was 91 years old.  (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

President Barack Obama presented the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Chita Rivera at the White House in Washington on August 12, 2009. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

File - Broadway star Chita Rivera, foreground, and Radio City Music Hall rehearse the Rockettes' Cole Porter "can do" On January 21, 1988 in New York.  Rivera, the dynamic dancer, singer and actress who received 10 Tony nominations and won twice in a long Broadway career that paved the way for Latina performers, died Tuesday.  She was 91 years old.  (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

Rivera and the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes rehearse Cole Porter’s “Can Can” in New York on January 21, 1988. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler, File)

“She was a true Broadway legend,” playwright Paul Rudnick, formerly of X, said on Twitter. He always performed well and was appreciated by the audience. As soon as she stepped on the stage, the world became more exciting and glorious.”

Rivera rose from chorus girl to star, collaborating with many of Broadway’s greatest talents, including Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein, Bob Fosse, Gower Champion, Michael Kidd, Harold Prince, Jack Cole, Peter Gennaro and John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Her right leg was crushed in a car accident in 1988, after which she made a comeback and became an unstoppable star on the road. She was on Broadway in spectacular productions of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” in 2012 and “The Visit” in 2014, earning another Best Actress Tony nomination.

Playwright Terrence McNally said in 2005, “She can’t do rehearsals except full-out.” “She can’t rehearse except for a full-out, no matter the size of the house. She will be 101% present for that audience.”

He won Tony Awards for “The Rink” in 1984 and “Kiss of the Spider Woman” in 1993. While accepting the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018, she said, “I wouldn’t trade my life in theater for anything, because theater is life.”

He was nominated for the award seven times for “Bye Bye Birdie”, beginning in 1960; “Chicago,” 1975; “Bring Back Birdie,” 1981; “Marilyn,” 1983; “Jerry’s Girls,” 1985; “Nine,” 2003; and “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life,” 2005.

“I don’t think we have enough original music,” he told the Associated Press in 2012. “I know I’m being old-fashioned, but theater is where music, songs, words, scenes and stories come together. And I’ve been very fortunate to have done many shows while actually doing . They take you places and they’re courageous. That’s what we need.”

His albums consist of 16 tracks and two single CDs taken from his original cast recordings and presented as part of Sony’s Legends of Broadway series – “And Now I Sing” for a small record label in the 1960s. ” and “And Now I Swing” in 2009. For yellow sound label.

“I look up to you and will always admire you as a talent and mostly as a person!” Kristin Chenoweth on X wrote, “You were a kick butt lady. The rest of us just want to be you.

Rivera played the lead role in the 1993 musical film “Kiss of the Spider Woman”, playing a glamorous movie star at the center of the fictional life of an inmate in a South American prison. The story had already been made into an Oscar-winning film in 1985, based on a novel by Manuel Puig.

In his review, then-Associated Press drama critic Michael Kuchvara wrote that Rivera “is much more than a musical theater star. She is a force of nature—which is exactly what the role of Spider-Woman requires. With her Louise Brooks haircut, With the voice and flexible dancer’s body, Rivera dominates whenever she takes the stage.

In 1975, she played Velma Kelly (to Gwen Verdon’s Roxie Hart) in the original Broadway production of “Chicago”. Rivera had a small role in the 2002 film version, while Catherine Zeta-Jones won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress as Velma – just as Rita Moreno won an Oscar for playing Anita in “West Side Story.” Was.

“Chicago” lyricists Kander and Ebb also wrote Rivera’s first Tony-winning performance for “The Rink.” In winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, Rivera bested the show’s top star Liza Minnelli, who was also nominated. The duo played a mother and daughter who struggle to rebuild their relationship after a long separation; The setting is an old-fashioned roller rink that has seen better days.

“Spider Woman” was her first Broadway show since 1986, when she broke her leg in a traffic accident while appearing in “Jerry’s Girls”, a Broadway tribute to the songs of Jerry Herman.

A few weeks later at the Tony Awards, she flashed her cast and sang “Put on a Happy Face” from the musical “Bye, Bye, Birdie.”

It took months of physical therapy to regain her dancing skills. “It never occurred to me that I would never dance again,” she told The Associated Press. Never. I can’t tell you the reason. It’s a tough thing to come back but that’s what I’m doing.”

“My soul is still there.”

Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was born on January 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C. Her Puerto Rican father, Pedro del Rivero, was a musician who played in the United States Navy Band when she was 7 years old. died. His mother was of Scottish and Italian descent.

She took dance classes and then entered the prestigious School of American Ballet in New York. Her first theater gig at the age of 17 was in the touring company of “Call Me Madam”. This led to her performing choruses in shows such as “Guys and Dolls” and “Can-Can”.

In her 2023 memoir, “Chita: A Memoir,” another woman steals scene after scene: her self-proclaimed alter ego, Dolores. Unapologetic and fierce, Dolores was the unfiltered version of Chita and served as inspiration in a time of self-doubt. In one chapter, Rivera writes that she doesn’t read reviews “or Dolores could just invest in a dozen voodoo dolls.”

Rivera said in an interview with the AP that year, “I am comprised of – and I think we are all involved – I am made up of two people: Dolores and Conchita.” “Conchita, she’s the one who’s taking all the glory, you know. She’s doing all the shows, but Dolores is the one who pushed her into it. And she’s keeping me on track, so I listen to Dolores. I listen to him. As we talk, she is growing in my mind.

Other early appearances on the New York stage included roles in “The Shoestring Revue,” 1955; the 1955 musical version of “Seventh Heaven” starring Ricardo Montalban; And “Mr. Wonderful,” the 1956 show starring Sammy Davis Jr.

“I can’t believe I’ve been given the gift of looking back and reliving my life,” she told The Associated Press shortly before “The Dancer’s Life” opened on Broadway in late 2005. “It’s about how anyone can do it – if you really believe in it, you have good luck, you do all the right things and you work really hard.

Rivera, who had a relationship with the now deceased Davis, married fellow “West Side Story” star Tony Mordante in 1957. This marriage ended in divorce. His daughter, Lisa Mordente, also became a performer, appearing occasionally on Broadway and receiving a Tony nomination in 1982 for “Marlowe”.

“Our hearts go out to all those who loved her,” GLAAD said in a statement. “Rivera spent much of his long career advocating for LGBTQ people and those living with HIV and AIDS.”


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