Chita Rivera, the renowned actress and singer celebrated for her iconic roles on Broadway, including originating the character Anita in West Side Story, has passed away at the age of 91.
The news was confirmed by her publicist, Merle Frimark, in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. Frimark expressed deep sorrow, stating, “It is with immense personal sorrow that I announce the death of the beloved Broadway icon Chita Rivera. My dear friend of over 40 years was 91.”
Additionally, a statement from Rivera’s daughter, Lisa Mordente, revealed that her mother “died peacefully on Tuesday, January 30, 2024, in New York after a brief illness.” Rivera is survived by her siblings Julio, Armando, and Lola del Rivero, along with numerous nieces, nephews, and friends. Her funeral will be private, with a memorial service to be announced later.
Mordente’s statement concluded with a request for privacy. She suggested that donations in Rivera’s name be made to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.
Chita Rivera: From West Side Story to Broadway Legend
Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, D.C., Chita Rivera demonstrated a passion for performance from a young age. She began her career in ballet and later earned a scholarship to George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City. Rivera made her first appearance as a principal dancer in the 1952 touring company of Call Me Madam. This was before making her Broadway debut in Guys and Dolls the following year.
Rivera’s career soared when she took on the role of Anita in West Side Story in 1957, propelling her to stardom. Chita Rivera continued to shine on stage, originating roles in Chicago, The Rink. She also starred in Kiss of the Spider Woman. For this she received Tony Awards for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical. Rivera was known for her powerful voice, which she showcased in her three solo albums and various television appearances.
In recognition of her contributions to the arts, Rivera received numerous accolades. This includes the Kennedy Center Honor in 2002, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tonys in 2018.
Chita Rivera’s impact on Broadway and her legacy as a trailblazer for Latinas in the entertainment industry. She will be remembered and cherished by her fans and colleagues alike.