The Playbill Vault Celebrates Tony Award Winner Chita Rivera

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23 Jan 2014

Two-time Tony Award winner Chita Rivera celebrates her birthday Jan. 23. To mark the occasion, the Playbill Vault highlights notable roles from her Broadway career.

Rivera got her start on the stage performing in musicals like Can-Can and Mr. Wonderful, but it was her role as Anita in the original production of West Side Story that catapulted her to fame. The classic Arthur Laurents-Leonard Bernstein-Stephen Sondheim musical premiered Sept. 26, 1957, at the Winter Garden Theatre. Jerome Robbins directed a cast that starred Larry Kert as Tony and Carol Lawrence as Maria.

In his New York Times review, Brooks Atkinson called the show "an incandescent piece of work that finds odd bits of beauty amid the rubbish of the streets." The production went on to play 732 performances and received six Tony Award nominations, including one for Best Musical, though that award went to Meredith Willson's The Music Man.

West Side Story has enjoyed several revivals, most recently in 2009 with Karen Olivo in the role originated by Rivera.

Read a Playbill from the original West Side Story here.

(Note: This Playbill is from one year into the run, when Muriel Bentley had taken over the role of Anita.)


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