Iconic Performer Chita Rivera Dies at 91, Leaves Bright Legacy in Broadway and Beyond

NEW YORK—Broadway legend Chita Rivera, known for her iconic performances in shows like “West Side Story,” “Chicago,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” has passed away at the age of 91. Rivera’s publicist, Merle Frimark, confirmed her death, stating that the star died peacefully in New York after a brief illness.

Rivera made history with a record 10 Tony Award nominations and two wins for her performances in “The Rink” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Her extensive Broadway career included roles in classic shows like “West Side Story,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and multiple Bob Fosse musicals.

In addition to her stage career, Rivera also appeared in film and television, starring in screen adaptations of “Sweet Charity” and “Chicago,” as well as in movies like “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Her most recent screen credit was in Netflix’s 2021 movie “Tick, Tick… Boom!”

A trailblazer for Latinx artists, Rivera’s influence on Broadway was widespread. She originated the role of Anita in the original 1957 Broadway production of “West Side Story,” paving the way for future generations of performers of Latin American descent.

Rivera’s impact reached beyond the stage, garnering her honors such as the Kennedy Center Honoree in 2002 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she received from President Barack Obama in 2009. In 2018, she was awarded the Special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theatre.

Throughout her career, Rivera’s presence in the entertainment industry left a profound impact on her peers and admirers. Fellow actors and individuals in the industry paid tribute to her, recognizing her as a force of greatness. Stephanie Pope, a Broadway actress and friend of Rivera, described her as a legend and a standard of excellence that aspiring performers could only hope to achieve.

Rivera’s legacy will be celebrated not only for her groundbreaking performances, but also for the doors she opened for future Latinx artists in the entertainment industry. Her influence will continue to inspire generations of performers to come.