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.