G. McConway
January 31, 2024

Iconic Broadway Star Dead at 91

It is hard to have an argument about the most influential actresses on Broadway without saying the name Chita Rivera.

Sadly, the woman who first brought Anita to life in “West Side Story” has passed away.

She was 91 years old.

Astonishing Career

Rivera, like many Broadway stars, was a crossover from Broadway to the big screen and back to Broadway again.

Rivera had a notable acting career, notching about 20 credits on her IMDb resume, including “Tick, Tick… Boom!” in 2021.

Her first credit was in 1964, with a small role in “The Outer Limits” TV show. In fact, TV series and movies are where most of her film acting credits took place.

That paled in comparison to her Broadway resume, however, which is where she cut her teeth and made her reputation.

Rivera made her Broadway debut in 1950 as a dancer in “Guys and Dolls.”

After working her way through the ranks, she picked a doozie to take on the lead role, playing Anita in “West Side Story” in 1957.

She then played Velma Kelly in “Chicago,” and had the title role in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

Over the years, she stacked up nominations and managed to bring home the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical two times (“Bye Bye Birdie” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman”).

I have had the honor of seeing this woman perform live on stage, and I can tell you, she was utterly amazing when the spotlight hit her.

“Tick, Tick… Boom!” Director Lin-Manuel Miranda paid her tribute, stating, “When we filmed the diner scene in ttB (Tick, Tick..Boom!), she wasn’t available for the shoot dates, so I left a chair empty in the diner for those three days.

“The whole shoot, people kept trying to move the chair or clear space and I’d have to say no, we’re GOING to get Chita, I don’t know how but we’re going to do it. 8 months later on our reshoots, she joined us and held court all day. It remains one of the all-time joys of my life. She was magnificent.

“She IS magnificent, not ready for the past tense just yet.”

Rivera also published a memoir, “Chita: A Memoir,” for those interested in learning more about her amazing career.

Rest in peace, Chita, for you were one of the best ever.

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