Chita Rivera – Broadway’s “first great triple threat” passes away at age 91

Chita Rivera - passes away at age 91 | Image Credit: syracuse.com
Chita Rivera – passes away at age 91 | Image Credit: syracuse.com

According to her daughter Lisa Mordente, Chita Rivera, who starred in over 20 Broadway musicals throughout a six-decade career, has passed away. The legendary Broadway actor, who has won three Tony Awards, is most known for her portrayals as Velma Kelly in Chicago, Anita in West Side Story, Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, and Aurora in Kiss of the Spiderwoman. She was ninety-one.

According to Laurence Maslon, co-producer of the 2004 PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, Rivera “was everything Broadway was designed to be.” “She spent countless years on Broadway as a spontaneous, captivating, and extraordinarily skilled performer. You never forget her once you’ve seen her.”

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You might believe that Chita Rivera was raised on Broadway, but this is untrue. At a Screen Actors Guild Foundation interview, the actress said that she was a tomboy who drove her mother crazy. “I’m putting you in ballet class so that we can reign in some of that energy,” she remarked. Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero was born in Washington, D.C. Thus, I am really appreciative.”

Rivera became so engrossed in dance that the School of American dance in New York offered her a full scholarship. However, Rivera was hired after accompanying a friend to an audition for the Broadway production of Call Me Madam. Broadway, hey! Farewell to ballet. She was cast in the lead role of Anita in West Side Story in 1957, which had a soundtrack composed by Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein.

For the musical’s 50th anniversary, Rivera told NPR in 2007 that “Hearing ‘America’ was really mind-boggling, with that beat.” “I was eager to get started. It was really difficult. And that was a welcome sound, you know, being Latin.”

Rivera was able to showcase her acting and singing abilities in addition to her physical dance skills in West Side Story. “I remember sitting next to Lenny and his starting with ‘A Boy Like That,’ teaching it to me and me saying, ‘It’s impossible, I can’t hit those notes, I don’t know how to hit those notes,'” she recollects from when Leonard Bernstein taught her the score.

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Maslon claimed that although she didn’t quite hit them, her ability to act, sing, and dance made her a valued asset on Broadway. “She was the original outstanding triple threat. Broadway producers, such as Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse, saw the importance of having actors who were proficient in all three areas.”

She also had some huge hits and some huge failures between 1960 and 2013. Rivera was involved in a major taxi accident in 1986. The doctors said she would never dance again after breaking her left leg, but she did, only in a different way.

“Realism is a must for all of us,” she stated to NPR in 2005. “I no longer perform flying splits. I no longer perform backflips and other stunts that I once did. Do you have a question for me? I have no desire to.”

Her fame, nevertheless, never faded. And the praise kept coming: she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a Kennedy Centre honour, and many Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement. Rivera was totally committed to the theatre, according to Maslon, and didn’t do anything for television or films.

He explains, “That’s why they’re referred to be Broadway legends.” “I hope you get to see them in person because there’s never going to be another opportunity to see them quite like this.”

Source:
https://www.npr.org/2024/01/30/975467882/chita-rivera-dead


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