Chita Rivera: The Toast of Chichicastenango 1933-2024

Chita Rivera: The Toast of Chichicastenango 1933-2024

Musical theater people are mourning the death of Cheeta Rivera.. Over seven decades, she was an amazing entertainer. According to her daughter, Lisa Mordente, Chita Rivera has taken her final bow. Broadway was forever changed by Rivera, a three-time Tony Award winner known for her remarkable roles in “West Side Story,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Chicago,” and “The Rink,” among other productions. When she died, she was ninety-one years old.
Chita Rivera:

Broadway Legacy: A Timeless Doyenne

Described by producer Lawrence Maslon, a collaborator on the PBS series “Broadway,” as someone unforgettable, Rivera’s impact on Broadway in 2004 was monumental. Maslon recalls, “Once you saw her, you couldn’t forget her.”

Contrary to popular belief, Chita Rivera wasn’t born with Broadway in her blood. Dolores Conchita Figueroa Del Rivero, born in Washington D.C., recounted in an interview with the Actors Fund Foundation that she was initially a tomboy. Her mother had enrolled her in a ballet class to channel her energy, a decision for which she remained grateful.

Broadway icon Chita Rivera tells the story of a life devoted to the art of dance in her most recent biography.


Cultural Impact and Scholarship

Rivera’s journey with ballet led her to a full scholarship from the School of American Ballet. However, her trajectory shifted when, during an audition for a Broadway show in New York with a friend, she secured a role. Bid farewell to ballet; Rivera embarked on her Broadway career, starting with Anita in “West Side Story,” where she collaborated with Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the musical in 2007, Rivera shared with NPR, “Hearing ‘America’ in that rehearsal hall was just mind-boggling.” She expressed the challenge of being part of it, considering her Latin roots, “I couldn’t believe I was going to be in it. For me, it was a challenge. And, being Latin, you know, it was a real voice.


“West Side Story” not only allowed Rivera to showcase her athletic dancing chops but also her prowess in acting and singing. She reminisces that Leonard Bernstein himself taught her to score: “I remember sitting with Lenny, and it started with ‘Ay, Boy Like Dat,’ and he kept saying to me, ‘I’m never going to do this, I can’t hit them. Note, I don’t know how to hit these notes .But she hit them, and according to Maslon, her singing, acting, and dancing skills made her a valuable asset on Broadway. “She was the first big triple threat. Directors like Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse saw the need for performers who could do all three and do them well.

Chita Rivera:

Triumphs and Challenges: A Life in Broadway

From 1960 to 2013, Rivera had her share of successes and failures, including a significant setback in 1986 when she was involved in a singing taxi accident.

Despite physicians’ concerns that Rivera’s shattered leg would keep her from dancing, she overcame them and discovered new methods to express her passion for dance.

In 2005, Rivera told NPR, “We should all be truth seekers. I don’t do flying splits anymore. I don’t do backflips anymore. And all the things that I did, you know.

However, her star never waned. Rivera kept getting recognition, taking home many Tony Awards, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Kennedy Center Honor, and a Lifetime Achievement Award.

She’s known as a Broadway legend,” they say. Optimistically, witnessing her live performance is a unique experience, as you won’t encounter her in any other manifestation quite like it.

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