Pioneering Broadway icon Chita Rivera dead aged 91 after ‘brief illness’

Following a career that saw her pave the way for fellow Latin performers, Broadway icon Chita Rivera has died aged 91.

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Broadway icon Chita Rivera has died aged 91
Broadway icon Chita Rivera has died aged 91

Broadway icon Chita Rivera has died aged 91.

The Tony Award-winning actress, singer and dancer passed away on Tuesday (30.01.24), her representative Merle Frimark said.

He revealed in a statement to People: “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.”

Chita’s daughter Lisa Mordente, 65, said in her own statement her mum had died in New York “after a brief illness”.

She added: “She is also survived by her siblings Julio, Armando and Lola del Rivero (her older sister Carmen predeceased her), along with her many nieces, nephews and friends.”

Chita’s family also said the late performer’s funeral will “be private”, but promised a memorial service would be announced “in due course”.

The actress shot to fame when she originated the role of Anita in ‘West Side Story’ in 1957, forging a path for fellow Latina performers.

She followed the groundbreaking performance with the Broadway productions of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, which landed Chita her first Tony nomination, and ‘Chicago’.

She was also renowned for her turns in productions of ‘Guys and Dolls’, ‘Sweet Charity’ and ‘Kiss Me Kate’.

Born Dolores Conchita Figuero del Rivero in Washington, DC, Chita trained as a ballerina from her childhood, but in 1986 suffered an injury during a car crash after a taxi hit her vehicle in Manhattan that left her left leg broken in a dozen places.

But she battled her way back into dancing nearly a year after the accident, though never fully recovered.

She told the New York Times: “You’ll never see me in ballet slippers again because I don’t have my Achilles’ tendon.

“I can’t do the full stretch. But I don’t have any pain anymore. The only problem is that my leg sets off metal detectors at airports.”

Chita received the Kennedy Center Honor in 2002, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, awarded by then-US president Barack Obama.

She also took home two Tony Awards as best leading actress in a musical, plus a lifetime achievement trophy.

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