Broadway Legend Chita Rivera Dead at 91

Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera, the Broadway icon and beloved star of West Side Story, Chicago and Kiss of the Spider Woman, has died. She was 91.

The news was confirmed by her daughter, Lisa Mordente, who shared in a statement on Tuesday, Jan. 30 made via Rivera's friend and publicist Merle Frimark that her mother passed away "after a brief illness." Rivera was also said to have died peacefully in New York, The Guardian reports.

"It is with immense personal sorrow that I announce the death of the beloved Broadway icon Chita Rivera," Frimark said in her own statement on Tuesday, per PEOPLE, calling the late Broadway star, "my dear friend of over 40 years."

Rivera, a bona fide triple-threat when it came to singing, dancing and acting on stage, has Broadway credits dating back to 1950, including her debut as a principal dancer in Guys and Dolls in 1953, and her memorable role as the original Anita in West Side Story at the show's opening in 1957.

Rivera also originated the role of Velma in Chicago (1975), as well as the title character in Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993). More of her famed Broadway credits include Can-Can, Mr. Wonderful, Bye Bye Birdie, Jerry's Girls and Seventh Heaven. 

One of the most-nominated performers in Tony Award history, Rivera received a total of 10 nominations throughout her career, winning twice for The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She also received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2018.

In September 2023, a bout with COVID-19 forced Rivera to cancel an appearance at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, where she was supposed to participate in a panel discussion about her book Chita: A Memoir, which released in April of that year. At the time, a statement from the venue asked fans to "keep Rivera in your thoughts."

The family has not disclosed whether the illness was a factor in her death.

In addition to Rivera's daughter, she is also survived by her siblings Julio, Armando and Lola del Rivero, (her older sister Carmen predeceased her), along with her many nieces, nephews and friends," her rep added in the statement on Tuesday, noting that a funeral will be held privately. "A memorial service will be announced in due course."

The family is asking for any donations in Rivera's memory to be made to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

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