(LibertySociety.com) – Broadway is mourning the death of Chita Rivera, one of its most iconic and long-time performers. She died at the age of 91 in New York and is survived by her daughter, Lisa Mordente, three of her siblings, and several nieces and nephews. A statement released by Mordente asked for those honoring her memory to donate to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. The charity provides essential supplies, such as groceries and medication, to people and families who are affected by HIV/AIDS and other serious illnesses.
Rivera rose to fame in 1957 when she was cast in “West Side Story,” where she played the role of Bernardo’s girlfriend. He was the brother of the main character, Maria. Rivera was nominated for her first Tony Award for her role as Rose in the 1960 production of “Bye Bye Birdie” with Dick Van Dyke. She was nominated for another Tony in 1975 for originating the role of Velma in the Broadway musical “Chicago.” While she was still performing at the age of 83, her career was temporarily halted in 1986 when she was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident. She underwent months of physical therapy rehabilitation for a crushed leg and returned to the stage in 1988.
Throughout her career, she was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and won two. She received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018. Rivera received numerous accolades, but in 2023 she said that she knew she had made it when she “won the Kennedy Center.” in 2006. She was the first Latina to receive the Kennedy Center Honor. The awards are given annually to individuals in the performing arts for their lifelong contributions to American culture.
Rivera was also asked in 2023 about her secret to longevity, which she attributed to gratefulness for her family and acquaintances. Perhaps most meaningfully, she said that her daughter was her life’s “best production.”
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