Chita Rivera
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Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera
Chita Rivera 1.jpg
Born
Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero

(1933-01-23) January 23, 1933 (age 87)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
OccupationActress, dancer, singer
Years active1950-present
(m. 1957; div. 1966)
ChildrenLisa Mordente
Awards
Websitewww.chitarivera.com
External audio
audio icon You may watch "Chita Rivera" perform on YouTube

Chita Rivera (born January 23, 1933 as Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero[note 1]), is an American actress, singer and dancer best known for originating roles in Broadway musicals including Anita in West Side Story, Velma Kelly in Chicago, and the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman. She is a ten-time Tony Award nominee and a three-time Tony Award recipient, including one for Lifetime Achievement.[1] She is the first Hispanic woman and the first Latino American[2] to receive a Kennedy Center Honor and is a recipient the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[3]

Early life and education

Rivera was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Katherine (Anderson), a government clerk, and Pedro Julio Figueroa del Rivero,[4][5] a clarinetist and saxophonist for the United States Navy Band. Her father was Puerto Rican, and her mother was of Scottish and Italian descent.[6] Rivera is one of five children.[7] Rivera was seven years old when her mother was widowed and went to work at The Pentagon.

In 1944, Rivera's mother enrolled her in the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet (now the Jones Haywood School of Dance).[8] Later, when she was 15, a teacher from George Balanchine's School of American Ballet visited their studio, and Rivera was one of two students picked to audition in New York City; she was accompanied to the audition by Doris Jones, one of the people who ran the Jones-Haywood School. Rivera's audition was successful, and she was accepted into the school and given a scholarship.[6]

Career

1951-1993

In 1951, Rivera accompanied a friend to the audition for the touring company of Call Me Madam starring Elaine Stritch and ended up winning the role herself. She followed this by landing roles in other Broadway productions such as Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Mr. Wonderful starring Sammy Davis, Jr., and Seventh Heaven[9] and dancing on The Maurice Chevalier Special in 1956.[10] In 1957, she was cast in the role which was destined to make her a Broadway star, the firebrand Anita in West Side Story (the role would bring fame and an Oscar to another actress of Puerto Rican descent, Rita Moreno, in the 1961 film version).

In 1960, Rivera was nominated for a Tony Award[11] for creating the role of Rose in Bye Bye Birdie opposite Dick Van Dyke. She appeared three times on The Ed Sullivan Show[10] and won raves for her performance on Broadway and in London opposite Peter Marshall, but was passed over for the film version where the role was played by Janet Leigh. In 1963, Rivera was a guest on The Judy Garland Show and was cast opposite Alfred Drake in Zenda. The Broadway-bound musical closed on the road but in 1964, Rivera returned to Broadway in Bajour[9] and television in The Outer Limits[10].

Among many national tours, Rivera starred most notably in Sweet Charity directed by Bob Fosse, playing the role of Nickie in the film adaptation of Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine (1969).[6] Rivera appeared three times on The Hollywood Palace, twice on The Carol Burnett Show (including an episode airing February 22, 1971[12][10]) and between 1973-74, played Connie Richardson on The New Dick Van Dyke Show.[10] In 1975, she earned a Tony Award nomination[11] starring as Velma Kelly opposite Gwen Verdon in the original cast of the musical Chicago,[6] directed by Bob Fosse. In addition to her ballet instructors, Rivera cites Leonard Bernstein and Verdon, with whom she starred in Chicago, as influential to her success.[8] She later made a cameo appearance in the 2002 movie version. She appeared as Fastrada in a filmed-for-television version of the musical Pippin in 1981, and was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Bring Back Birdie (1981)[13] and a Tony Award for Merlin (1983) on Broadway.[11]

In 1984, Rivera starred in the Kander and Ebb musical The Rink with Liza Minnelli and won her first Tony and Drama Desk Awards for her role as Anna. In 1986, while earning a Tony Award nomination[11] for her performance in the Jerry Herman musical, Jerry's Girls, Rivera was in a severe accident when her car collided with a taxi on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Injuries sustained included the breaking of her left leg in twelve places, requiring eighteen screws and two braces to mend. After rehabilitation, Rivera continued to perform on stage. Miraculously revitalized, in 1988, she toured the country in Can-Can and got involved in a restaurant venture in partnership with the novelist Daniel Simone. The eatery, located on 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue, was named "Chita's" after her. It soon became a significant attraction for the after-theater crowds and operated until 1994.[6]

1993-Present

Rivera with President Barack Obama prior to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, August 2009

In 1993, she received Tony and Drama Desk Awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her dual portrayal of Aurora and Spider Woman in the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, written by Kander and Ebb.[6] Rivera later participated in the London edition of Kander and Ebb's long-running revival of "Chicago," this time in the role of Roxie Hart. Rivera starred in the Goodman Theatre production of the musical The Visit (also by Kander and Ebb) as Claire Zachanassian in 2001. In 2002, she became a Kennedy Center Honoree.[14] In 2003, Rivera returned to Broadway in the 2003 revival of Nine as Liliane La Fleur and received her eighth career Tony Award nomination (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and fourth Drama Desk Award nomination (Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical). She appeared with Antonio Banderas. She later appeared on the revival's cast album.[6]

She guest-starred along with Michele Lee in a February 2005 episode of Will & Grace, and in December of that year, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, a retrospective of her career, opened on Broadway. She received another Tony nomination for her self-portrayal. Though she was expected to reprise her role in a Signature Theatre staging of The Visit in autumn of 2007, that was later postponed to the following season. Instead, she performed at New York's Feinstein's at the Regency supper club in New York for two weeks and, in 2008, appeared in a revised production of The Visit at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, co-starring George Hearn.[6][15] Rivera guest-starred on Disney Channel's Johnny and the Sprites as Queen of All Magical Beings. The episode debuted on March 15, 2008.[16]

In August 2009, US President Barack Obama awarded Rivera with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[3] In the 1960s Rivera had recorded two albums, Chita Rivera: Get Me To The Church On Time and And Now I Sing. These early 1960s albums would be reissued on CD by Stage Door Records in February 2013.[6] In November 2008, Rivera released her third solo album, And Now I Swing. Rivera performed in a staged concert of The Visit as a benefit at the Ambassador Theatre on November 30, 2011.[17] In 2012, Rivera played "Princess Puffer" in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54. She was the Grand Marshal of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City on June 9, 2013.

Rivera returned to Broadway in The Visit, the final musical written by John Kander, Fred Ebb and Terrence McNally. The musical opened at the Lyceum Theatre on March 26, 2015, and closed on June 14, 2015. Co-starring Roger Rees, the production was directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele.[18] Rivera received praise for her performance, and was nominated for a Tony Award, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical[19] and a Drama Desk Award.[20] The Astaire Awards were rebranded The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography in 2017.[21] In 2018, she received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.[22] In 2019, Time Out New York named her "one of the best Broadway divas of all time."[23] In 2020, she was one of the two Grand Marshalls in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, California on January 1.

Personal life

On December 1, 1957, Rivera married fellow West Side Story dancer Tony Mordente. Her performance was so important for the success of the show that the London production of West Side Story was postponed until she gave birth to the couple's daughter Lisa in 1958. They were divorced in 1966.

She is Roman Catholic.[24]

Select stage credits

Year Title Role Venue Notes
1950 Guys and Dolls Dancer 46th Street Theatre Replacement
1953 Can-Can Dancer Shubert Theatre
1955 Seventh Heaven Fifi ANTA Playhouse
1956 Mr. Wonderful Rita Romano Broadway Theatre
1957 Shinbone Alley Mehitabel
West Side Story Anita Winter Garden Theatre
1960 Bye Bye Birdie Rose Grant Martin Beck Theatre
1964 Bajour Anyanka Shubert Theatre
1975 Chicago Velma Kelly 46th Street Theatre
1981 Bring Back Birdie Rose Grant Martin Beck Theatre
1983 Merlin The Queen Mark Hellinger Theatre
1984 The Rink Anna Martin Beck Theatre
1985 Jerry's Girls Performer St. James Theatre
1993 Kiss of the Spider Woman Spider Woman/Aurora Broadhurst Theatre
2003 Nine Liliane La Fleur Eugene O'Neill Theatre
2005 Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life Herself Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre
2012 The Mystery of Edwin Drood The Princess Puffer / Miss Angela Prysock Studio 54
2015 The Visit Claire Zachannassian Lyceum Theatre

Filmography

Paula Kelly (third from right) and Chita Rivera (second from right) in
Sweet Charity (1969).

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1969 Sweet Charity Nickie
1978 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Guest at Heartland
1983 He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin' Herself Documentary
2002 Chicago Nickie Cameo Role
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Herself Documentary
2006 Kalamazoo? Giannina
2010 The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie! Singer
2012 Carol Channing: Larger Than Life Herself Documentary
Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky Herself Documentary
Ben Vereen: Last of the Showmen Herself Documentary
Move Herself Documentary
2018 Still Waiting in the Wings Broadway Diva Documentary

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Maurice Chevalier Show Herself 1 episode
1960 The Gary Moore Show Herself 1 episode
1963 The Judy Garland Show Herself Episode 17
1964 The Outer Limits Mrs. Dame Episode: "The Bellero Shield"
1965 The Hollywood Palace Herself 1 episode
1971 The Carol Burnett Show Various Characters Episode: "4.22"
1973 The Marcus-Nelson Murders Josie Hopper Television film
1973-1974 The New Dick Van Dyke Show Connie Richardson Main role; 7 episodes
1977 Once Upon a Brothers Grimm Gingerbread Lady Episode: "Hansel and Gretel"
1981 Pippin: His Life and Times Fastrada Television film
1982 One Life to Live Melody Rambo Recurring role
Strawberry Ice Performer Television film
1987 Mayflower Madam Risa Dickstein Television film
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Katy Voice Role; Episode: "Thumbelina"
2004 Dora The Explorer The Witch Voice role; 2 episodes
2005 Will & Grace Lenore Portillo Episode: "Dance Cards and Greeting Cards"
2008 Johnny and the Sprites The Queen Episode: "Johnny Not Invited"
2011 Submissions Only Gladys Franklin Episode: "Yore So Bad"

Awards, nominations and honors

Rivera has been nominated for the Tony Award ten times, as either Best Featured Actress in a Musical or Best Actress in a Musical. This is the current record for the most individual Tony Award nominations, which she shares with Julie Harris.

In 2009, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Rivera was honored as The New Jewish Home's Eight Over Eighty Gala 2016 honoree.

She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Florida in 2018.[25]

Awards

See also

Notes

  1. ^

Further reading

References

  1. ^ "Chita Rivera Tony Awards Info". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2020.
  2. ^ "In 35 Years, Kennedy Center has Honored Only One Hispanic American...Chita Rivera". AllGov.
  3. ^ a b "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients", White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 30, 2009
  4. ^ "Chita Rivera Biography" filmreference.com. Retrieved October 29, 2011
  5. ^ "Biography". ChitaRivera.com. Archived from the original on November 13, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ratner-Arias, Sigal (September 4, 2009). "Q&A: Chita Rivera reflects on life in the theater". Taiwan News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  7. ^ "Lighting Up The Stage With Stars Of A Certain Age -- For Chita Rivera And A Host Of Other Veteran Actresses, Age Is No Longer An Issue | The Seattle Times". archive.seattletimes.com. Retrieved 2020.
  8. ^ a b "Website of the Jones Haywood School of Dance" joneshaywood.com
  9. ^ a b "Chita Rivera - Broadway Cast & Staff | IBDB". www.ibdb.com. Retrieved 2020.
  10. ^ a b c d e "Welcome to Chita Rivera.com". www.chitarivera.com. Retrieved 2020.
  11. ^ a b c d "Chita Rivera Tony Awards Info". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2020.
  12. ^ The Carol Burnett Show Collector's Edition
  13. ^ Skethway, Nathan (March 5, 2020). "Look Back at Chita Rivera and Donald O'Connor in Bring Back Birdie on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved 2020.
  14. ^ "Tony Winner Chita Rivera to Receive Kennedy Center Honor". Playbill. July 30, 2002. Retrieved 2020.
  15. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Chita and Company: Cast Is Complete for Signature's 'The Visit'" Archived April 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine, playbill.com, April 8, 2008
  16. ^ Hernandez, Ernio (February 22, 2008). "Photo Call: Chita Rivera Crowned Queen in 'Johnny and the Sprites'". Playbill. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved 2015.
  17. ^ Haun, Harry. "A New Kind of Spider Woman: Chita Rivera Wows Broadway Crowd in Concert of Kander & Ebb's 'The Visit'" Archived December 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, playbill.com, December 1, 2011.
  18. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "A Musical Nearly 20 Years in the Making: 'The Visit', Starring Chita Rivera, Arrives On Broadway at Long Last" Playbill/, March 26, 2015
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew. "69th Annual Tony Awards Nominations Announced!" Playbill, April 28, 2015
  20. ^ Cox, Gordon (April 23, 2015). "Drama Desk Nominations: 'Hamilton' Leads the Polls (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved 2020.
  21. ^ McPhee, Ryan (March 30, 2017). "The Astaire Awards, Honoring the Best in Dance, Are Now the Chita Rivera Awards". Playbill. Retrieved 2020.
  22. ^ Desk, BWW News. "Chita Rivera Wins 2018 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement Award". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2020.
  23. ^ "The Best Broadway Divas of All Time". Time Out New York. Retrieved 2020.
  24. ^ Correspondent, R. Scott Reedy. "Join iconic Broadway star Chita Rivera for conversation and song with Seth Rudetsky". MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, MA.
  25. ^ Gans, Andrew. Chita Rivera Will Receive Honorary Doctorate From University of Florida Playbill, April 9, 2018
  26. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Dates Announced for 71st Annual Theatre World Awards; Chita Rivera To Be Honored" Playbill, May 1, 2015

External links


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