born on 23/1/1933 in Washington DC, United States
|Birth name||Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero|
|Born|| January 23 1933
|Spouse(s)||Tony Mordente (m. 1957)|
Chita Rivera (born January 23, 1933) is a Puerto Rican-American actress dancer, and singer best known for her roles in musical theater. She is the first Hispanic woman to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award (December 2002). She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
Rivera was born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in Washington, D.C. to a Puerto Rican father, a clarinetist and saxophonist for the United States Navy Band, and a mother of Scottish and Italian descent. Rivera was seven years old when her mother was widowed and went to work for The Pentagon.
In 1944, Rivera's mother enrolled her in the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet (now the Jones Haywood School of Dance). 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.
In 1952, Rivera accompanied a friend to the audition for a Broadway production of Call Me Madam and ended up winning the role herself. She followed this by landing roles in other Broadway productions such as Guys and Dolls and Can-Can. 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 Puerto Rican, Rita Moreno, in the 1961 film version). Rivera starred in a national tour of Can-Can and played the role of Nicky in the film adaptation of Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine.
On December 1, 1957, Rivera married 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 1963, Rivera was cast opposite Alfred Drake in Zenda. The Broadway-bound musical closed on the road. In 1975 she appeared as Velma Kelly in the original cast of the musical Chicago.
In 1986, 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 endeavored in a restaurant venture in partnership with the novelist, Daniel Simone. The famous eatery, located on 42nd Street between 9th and Tenth Avenue, was named after her, 'Chita's'. It soon became a significant attraction for the after-theater crowds.
Rivera is regarded by many theatre aficionados as a "living legend" and in an In Theatre magazine interview, George Horsfall suggested, "You must be tired of the term 'legend', but let's get it out of the way. You have long been considered a Broadway legend." Rivera replied "Oh, God!" and laughed.
In addition to her ballet instructors, Rivera credited Leonard Bernstein and Gwen Verdon, with whom she starred in Chicago, as being people from whom she learned a great deal.
She appeared in a filmed for the television version of the musical Pippin in 1981, as "Fastrada". In 1993, she received a Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Aurora in the Tony-award winning musical Kiss of the Spider Woman written by Kander and Ebb.
Rivera starred in the Goodman Theatre production of the Kander and Ebb musical The Visit as "Claire Zachanassian" in 2001. In 2008 she appeared in a revised production of the musical at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, co-starring George Hearn.
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). Chita appeared with Antonio Banderas. She later appeared on the revival's cast album.
On television, Rivera was a guest on the Judy Garland show. 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 yet 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 2007, that was later postponed to the following season. Instead, she performed at New York's Feinsten's At The Regency supper club in New York for two weeks. Signature Theatre's production of The Visit opened to rapturous reviews on May 13, 2008 and closed June 22, 2008.
Rivera had a cameo in the 2002 movie version of Chicago. Rivera guest-starred on Disney Channel's Johnny and the Sprites as Queen of All Magical Beings. The episode debuted on March 15, 2008.
In November 2009, Rivera released a new album titled, "And Now I Swing" to rave reviews.
Theatre credits and role
- Mr. Wonderful---Rita Romano
- West Side Story---Anita
- Bye Bye Birdie---Rosie Alvarez
- Born Yesterday---Billie Dawn
- The Rose Tattoo
- Call Me Madam
- Threepenny Opera---Jenny
- Sweet Charity---Charity Hope Valentine
- Kiss Me, Kate
- Bring Back Birdie---Rose Grant
- The Rink---Anna
- Nine the Musical---Liliane La Fleur
- Merlin: The Magical Musical---The Queen
- Kiss of the Spider Woman---Aurora
- The Visit---Claire Zachanassian
- Chicago---Velma Kelly
Film and television work (selected)
- Chicago (2002)
- Stonewall 25 - Voices of Pride and Protest (1994)
- Mayflower Madam (TV) (1987)
- That's Singing: The Best of Broadway (Great Performances, TV) (1985)
- Pippin (1981)
- Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)
- Once Upon a Brothers Grimm (TV) (1977)
- The Marcus-Nelson Murders (Kojack, TV) (1973)
- Sweet Charity (1969)
- The Outer Limits, (TV) Vol. 20: "The Bellero Shield" (1963)
- List of famous Puerto Ricans
- "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients", White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 30, 2009
- Website of the Jones Haywood School of Dance
- 2003 Interview with Chita Rivera about West Side Story
- playbill article, Kenneth Jones, April 8, 2008, "Chita and Company: Cast Is Complete for Signature's The Visit" Retrieved 04-27-2008
- Playbill News: PHOTO CALL: Chita Rivera Crowned Queen in "Johnny and the Sprites"
- Chita Rivera official website
- Chita Rivera at the Internet Broadway Database
- Chita Rivera at the Internet Movie Database
- 2003 Interview with Chita Rivera about West Side Story.
- TonyAwards.com Interviews with Chita Rivera