Broadway legend and Tony winner Chita Rivera, real name Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero, has died. Her publicist confirmed the actor passed on Tuesday morning (January 30th) after a short bout with illness. The star was 91-years-old
Rivera leaves behind an enduring legacy on Broadway and musical theater. She starred as Anita in the initial run of West Side Story. She also appeared in the original run for the hit Chicago as well as played the lead in Kiss of the Spider Woman.
“I wouldn’t know what to do if I wasn’t moving or telling a story to you or singing a song,” she told The Associated Press (via USA TODAY). “That’s the spirit of my life, and I’m really so lucky to be able to do what I love, even at this time in my life.”
Rivera started her Broadway career in 1952 by landing a part in Call Me Madam. Before that, Rivera was headed towards dancing but ended up using those talents on stage instead. Rivera got the part in the musical after producers passed on her friend.
She followed that up with several other shows. However, Rivera thought she would never take the stage again after a car wreck in 1986. The dancer ended up breaking her leg in 12 different places. Many would consider it the end of Rivera and her dancing career. However, she pushed forward and overcame her injuries in what became one of the industry’s most inspirational stories.
Chita Rivera Leaves Lasting Legacy
Following her accident, Rivera ended up landing the lead on Kiss of the Spider Woman. That production would net her the second Tony of her career (the first being for The Rink).
“I don’t think we have enough original musicals,” she told The Associated Press in 2012. “I know I’m being old-fashioned, but the theater is the place where music, lyrics, words, scenery, and stories come together. And I’ve been blessed enough to have done several shows when they really did. They take you places and they’re daring. That’s what we need.”
Rivera would take an extended hiatus before returning for Nine on Broadway. In 2005, Rivera got the opportunity to star in a retrospective of her career. She last appeared in the 2021 movie Tick, Tick… Boom!.
“I consist of — and I think we all do — I consist of two people: Dolores and Conchita,” Rivera said in an interview with the AP. “Conchita, she’s the one that has been taking all the glory, you know. She’s been doing all the shows, but Dolores is the one that’s pushed her into it. And she’s been keeping me on track, so I listen to Dolores. I listen to her. She’s growing in my head now as we speak.”