The ‘first great triple threat’ of Broadway, Chita Rivera has passed away at the age of 91

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Chita Rivera, who had a career spanning six decades and featured in more than twenty musicals on Broadway, has reportedly passed away, as stated by her daughter, Lisa Mordente.

Anita in West Side Story, Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma Kelly in Chicago, and Aurora in Kiss of the Spiderwoman are just few of the characters that the Broadway great, who has won three Tony Awards, is known for creating. Her age was 91.

Rivera “was everything Broadway was meant to be,” says Laurence Maslon, who was a co-producer of the PBS series Broadway: The American Musical, which aired in 2004. Over the course of decades and decades on Broadway, she was a spontaneous and engaging performer who was also extremely skilled.

Chita Rivera has passed away at the age of 91
Chita Rivera (right) and Michelle Veintimilla act during the 2015 Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall on June 7. (Photo Credit: WFDD)

Chita Rivera was not a Broadway baby from the time she was a child, despite the fact that you might think she was. She told an audience at an interview with the Screen Actors Guild Foundation that she was a tomboy and drove her mother crazy.

She stated, “She said, ‘I’m putting you in ballet class so that we can rein in some of that energy.'” She was born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, District of Columbia. Consequently, I am really thankful.”

Due to the fact that Rivera is so dedicated to the art of ballet, she was awarded a full scholarship to attend the School of American Ballet in New York. On the other hand, Rivera was successful in landing the position after she invited a friend to accompany her to an audition for the Broadway production of Call Me Madam.

Chita Rivera (center) rehearses with choreographer Jerome Robbins (second from left) and West Side Story cast members on July 22, 1957. (Photo Credit: NPR)

Ballet, farewell, and welcome to Broadway. Her breakthrough performance came in 1957 when she was cast as Anita in West Side Story, which had a score composed by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.

Rivera was able to showcase not only her athletic dancing skills but also her acting and singing abilities through her performance in West Side Story.

She recalls Leonard Bernstein teaching her the score himself: “I remember sitting next to Lenny and his starting with ‘A Boy Like That,’ teaching it to me and me saying, ‘I’ll never do this, I can’t hit those notes, I don’t know how to hit those notes.’ “

On August 12, 2009, then-President Barack Obama presents Chita Rivera with the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House. (Photo Credit: Getty)

Nevertheless, she was able to impress them, and the fact that she could sing, act, and dance made her a prized commodity on Broadway, according to Maslon. As the first great triple threat, she was a pioneer.

Broadway directors such as Jerome Robbins and Bob Fosse recognized the necessity for performers who were capable of performing all three roles and would be able to do them very effectively.

She told National Public Radio in 2005 that “we all need to be realistic.” “I no longer perform flying splits,” she said. Back flips and other things that I used to do are no longer something that I do. Do you have a question about something? Don’t ask me to do that.

On the other hand, her fame never faded away. She was awarded a number of Tony Awards, including one for lifetime achievement, a Kennedy Center honor, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

She has received a number of other distinctions including these. Rivera was entirely devoted to the stage, according to Maslon, and she did not do much work in the film or television industries.


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