Chita Rivera, Broadway Legend of ‘Chicago’ and ‘West Side Story,’ Dies at 91

The actress’ decades-spanning work earned her two lead actress Tony Awards and a Kennedy Center Honor

Chita Rivera attends the Chita Rivera Awards 2023 at NYU Skirball Center in New York City (Credit: Jason Mendez/Getty Images)
Chita Rivera attends the Chita Rivera Awards 2023 at NYU Skirball Center in New York City (Credit: Jason Mendez/Getty Images)

Chita Rivera, best known for her Broadway roles in “Chicago” and “West Side Story” to name a few, has died. She was 91.

The actress’ daughter Lisa Mordente announced the news.

“It is with immense personal sorrow that I announce the death of the beloved Broadway icon Chita Rivera. My dear friend of over 40 years was 91,” Frimark said in a statement to People on Tuesday.

The actress portrayed Anita in the Broadway musical “West Side Story,” later adapted into the 1961 film that starred Rita Moreno in the role. She later reprised the career-launching role under Seth Redetsky’s direction at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Aside from “West Side Story” and her role of Nickie in “Chicago,” Rivera’s more than 30 Broadway credits include “Guys and Dolls,” “Can-Can,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Jerry’s Girls,” “Seventh Heaven,” “Mr. Wonderful” and more.

She won Tony Awards for her lead performances in musicals “The Rink” alongside Liza Minnelli and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and she was nominated for six additional Tonys.

Rivera received her Kennedy Center Honor from President George W. Bush in 2002. Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

She is survived by her daughter Lisa.

“Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda paid tribute to the trailblazing performer, who appeared in his film adaptation of “Tick, Tick..Boom!” on Netflix, in a statement.

“The trailblazer for Puerto Rico on Broadway. Originated Anita AND Rosie AND Velma Kelly AND The Spider Woman AND so many more iconic Broadway roles because she was an absolute original,” he wrote. “When we filmed the diner scene in ttB (Tick, Tick..Boom!), she wasn’t available for the shoot dates, so I left a chair empty in the diner for those three days. The whole shoot, people kept trying to move the chair or clear space and I’d have to say no, we’re GOING to get Chita, I don’t know how but we’re going to do it. 8 months later on our reshoots, she joined us and held court all day. It remains one of the all-time joys of my life. She was magnificent. She IS magnificent, not ready for the past tense just yet. “

My heart is with everyone in Chita’s galaxy of family and friends. We’ll be blasting WSS and Bye, Bye Birdie and Chicago and SO MUCH MUSIC, because she left us so much. Gracias, Chita. Alabanza,” Miranda added.

Kristin Chenoweth mourned the loss of her Broadway predecessor on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“There was only you. Then everyone else,” the “Wicked” alumna tweeted. “I looked up to you and always will admire you as a talent and mostly as a person! A kick butt woman you were. All the rest of us just wanna be you.”

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