Iconic Performer Chita Rivera, Star of Broadway’s “Chicago” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” Dies at 91 – CNN Confirms

New York, NY – Chita Rivera, the legendary performer known for her roles in iconic musicals such as “Chicago,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” and “Sweet Charity,” has passed away at the age of 91, according to her longtime publicist, Merle Frimark. Rivera died peacefully in New York City after a brief illness.

Rivera’s career on Broadway spanned decades, and she received a record 10 Tony Award nominations, winning two for her performances in “The Rink” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” She made a lasting impact with her roles in musicals like “West Side Story,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and Bob Fosse’s productions of “Chicago” and “All That Jazz.” In addition to her stage work, Rivera made appearances in films and TV shows, including screen adaptations of “Sweet Charity” and “Chicago.”

Rivera’s most recent screen credit was in the 2021 Netflix movie “Tick, Tick… Boom!” where she appeared alongside other notable stage musical performers. Born in Washington, DC in 1933, Rivera began her career as a ballerina, receiving a scholarship to the School of American Ballet from choreographer George Balanchine.

Rivera’s heritage as a Puerto Rican artist played a significant role in her career, and she paved the way for other Latinx artists in the world of Broadway. She originated the role of Anita in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” in 1957, which became a timeless classic.

Throughout her career, Rivera received numerous honors and accolades, including being named a Kennedy Center honoree in 2002 and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2009. In 2018, she was awarded the Special Tony Award for lifetime achievement in the theater. Rivera also penned a memoir titled “Chita: A Memoir,” which was published in 2021.

Tributes have poured in from fellow artists and friends. Lin-Manuel Miranda, director of “Tick, Tick… Boom!,” described Rivera as a trailblazer for Puerto Rico on Broadway and shared how she had a profound impact on him. Academy Award-winning actress Rita Moreno, who portrayed Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of “West Side Story,” called Rivera “eternal” and praised her as the essence of Broadway.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, who won an Academy Award for her role in the film adaptation of “Chicago,” shared how Rivera had an incredible impact on her life and referred to her as a “queen.” Ariana DeBose, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Anita in Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of “West Side Story,” referred to Rivera as “a force” and expressed her admiration for the late star.

Stephanie Pope, a Broadway actress and friend of Rivera’s, spoke highly of the impact Rivera had on the industry, saying she would always be a legend. The Broadway community and the world have lost an extraordinary star.

Rivera is survived by her daughter, Lisa Mordente, and her siblings Julio, Armando, and Lola del Rivero, along with nieces, nephews, and friends. Rivera’s funeral will be private.

Chita Rivera will be remembered as a pioneering force in the world of Broadway, leaving behind a lasting legacy and inspiring generations of performers.