Memoriam Chita Rivera (2024) Actress, Singer, Dancer

Chita Rivera

Actress, Singer, Dancer

a life well lived

John Kander Chita Rivera Terrence McNalley & Toby Simkin in NYC in 2015
Gone but never forgotten — Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Anderson, known as Chita Rivera was born on January 23, 1933, in Washington, D.C.

Chita won a scholarship to the School of American Ballet in New York, where she also attended William Howard Taft High School. Graduating in 1951, she embarked on her career, initially touring as a principal dancer in Irving Berlin’s CALL ME MADAM … goodbye ballet, hello Broadway, making her Broadway debut in GUYS AND DOLLS in 1953.

In 1957, she landed her breakout role, Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, with a score by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. Chita married fellow WEST SIDE STORY dancer Tony Mordente with whom she had a daughter, Lisa. The couple divorced in 1966.

Chita appeared in more than 20 Broadway musicals over 6 decades. The three-time Tony Award-winning Broadway legend created indelible roles — Anita in WEST SIDE STORY, Rose in BYE BYE BIRDIE, Velma Kelly in CHICAGO, Aurora in KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMAN and Claire in THE VISIT.

Chita Rivera in WEST SIDE STORYChita Rivera in BYE, BYE BIRDIEChita Rivera in CHICAGOChita Rivera in KISS OF THE SPIDERWOMANChita Rivera in THE VISIT

Despite the success of WEST SIDE STORY, Chita faced setbacks, such as the Anita role going to Rita Moreno in the 1961 film adaptation. She persevered through road revivals and various Broadway productions, demonstrating resilience and skill. A serious taxi accident during JERRY’S GIRLS in 1985 tested her tenacity, resulting in a remarkable recovery. Her left leg was shattered, and the doctors said she’d never dance again, but she did — just differently.

Chita made a triumphant comeback with KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN followed by performances in a Broadway revival of NINE in 2003 and her solo show, CHITA RIVERA: THE DANCER’S LIFE in 2005 and the Broadway musical THE VISIT in 2015. Over her more than 60-year career, she received accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. She won several Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement, and a Kennedy Center honor.

Chita didn’t do much television or film — she was completely devoted to the stage.

Chita succumbed to a “short illness” and died on January 30, 2024, at the age of 91 in New York.

The Broadway community dimmed the lights of Broadway theatres in New York for one minute on February 17, 2024 at 7:45pm in her honor.

She is survived by her daughter, Lisa Mordente.

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Toby Awards Trophytoby awards
In 2014, Chita Rivera was the recipient of a Toby Award.

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Toby Simkin’s Broadway Entertainment, LLC
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