Legendary Broadway star Chita Rivera dies at 91: A look back at her illustrious career

ECMG Times
By ECMG Times
4 Min Read
Chita Rivera dies at 91

Chita Rivera: a legendary star of Broadway, has passed away at 91 years old. Known for her exceptional talent in singing, acting, and dancing, Rivera was a true icon in the theater world. She was famous for her roles in timeless musicals like “West Side Story” and “Chicago,” and her outstanding performances earned her two Tony awards. In 2018, she was honored with a lifetime achievement Tony award.

The Life of a Broadway Legend

Chita Rivera’s journey in theater began in the 1950s in New York. Even in her later years, she continued to shine on stage, as seen in the 2015 Broadway production of “The Visit.” She had a special connection with composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, performing their songs in many shows and in her own cabaret acts.

Born to a Puerto Rican father and a mother of Scottish and Irish descent, Rivera grew up in Washington DC. Her father’s death when she was seven had a profound impact on her life. As a child, she was full of energy, often compared to a “cheetah” for her liveliness. This energy led her mother to enroll her in ballet classes, hoping it would channel her enthusiasm. Rivera often spoke about the sacrifices her family made for her career, including selling her father’s musical instruments to pay for her dance lessons.

Her big break came after attending George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet. She initially performed under the name Conchita del Rivero but later shortened it for practicality. Her role as Anita in “West Side Story” in 1957 was a turning point in her career, featuring unforgettable songs and dances. Rivera married Tony Mordente, a fellow actor in “West Side Story,” and they had a daughter, Lisa.

Rivera continued to thrive on Broadway, creating the memorable character of Velma Kelly in “Chicago.” Her portrayal of Velma earned her a second Tony award nomination. She revisited her career in the 2005 revue “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life” and in her 2023 memoir, “Chita: A Memoir,” where she shared both her professional and personal stories.

A Life of Dedication and Inspiration

Rivera’s routine before performances was unique. She would close her dressing room door, say a few prayers, and then head out to dazzle the audience. This ritual was part of what made her performances so special and heartfelt.

Chita Rivera’s passing is a significant loss to the Broadway community and her fans worldwide. She leaves behind a rich legacy through her daughter, siblings, and the countless memories she created on stage. Her life story is an inspiration, showing how passion, dedication, and hard work can lead to an extraordinary career.


Chita Rivera’s life was a remarkable journey of passion, talent, and resilience. From her energetic childhood to her iconic roles on Broadway, she inspired many with her dedication to the arts. Rivera’s legacy will continue to live on through her memorable performances, her family, and the many lives she touched. Her story is a testament to the power of following one’s dreams and the impact one person can have on the world of theatre.

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