Losing a Legend: Broadway Remembers Theatrical Icon Chita Rivera | Playbill

Obituaries Losing a Legend: Broadway Remembers Theatrical Icon Chita Rivera

The three-time Tony recipient passed away January 30 at the age of 91.

Chita Rivera and cast in the 1957 production of West Side Story

Broadway is mourning the loss of stage icon Chita Rivera, who passed away January 30 at the age of 91.

Over her seven-decade career, Rivera created a startling number of iconic Broadway roles, including Anita in West Side Story, Rose in Bye Bye Birdie, Velma Kelly in Chicago, Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Claire in The Visit, among others. Puerto Rican, Scottish, Irish, and African-American, Rivera was also a barrier-breaking trailblazer who stood out as a Latine dancer and actor in an age when the vast majority of her colleagues were white.

Read on below to see Broadway's tributes, memories, anecdotes, and thoughts about the loss of a true theatrical legend. We will continue to update as more tributes continue to come in.

Sergio Trujillo

"Chita, how I loved to dance with you. You taught us so much, and inspired each one of us with your absolute brilliance. You taught me about the importance of giving all of yourself to your gift, of always staying committed to your talent. But most of all you taught me how to love all of those who work with you unconditionally. I will miss you so much, my dear friend. Until the next time we dance together again."

Paul Gemignani

"Chita was the happiest, funniest, most talented dancing actress I ever knew. We were colleagues, but most importantly friends, for more than 55 years. She and I had similar senses of humor. She was a great performer, no matter how big or small the job was. She had a dirty laugh and a big heart. She taught you every time you worked together or watch her work. She would give you the shirt off her back, and she would always tell you how great you were when you needed to hear it. She never forgot where she started from. She was everyone’s favorite! Good bye old friend. Have a martini with Gwen and Bobby and Micheal. Love always."

Bernadette Peters

"She was an amazing talent and vibrant, fun person. She was a great star up til the very end. She did it all so very well."

Vanessa Williams

Rita Moreno

"Chita Rivera is eternal. I remember seeing her for the first time in Mr. Wonderful and exclaiming, 'Oh my God, who IS that?' When I found out that this astonishing creature was one of my people, I crowed with pride. Over the years, we were sometimes mistaken for each other, which I always viewed as a badge of honor. She was the essence of Broadway. As I write this, I am raising a glass to this remarkable woman and friend. Chita, amiga, Salud!"

Chita Rivera and Rita Moreno

Lin-Manuel Miranda

"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.

"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. Eight 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 West Side Story and Bye, Bye Birdie and Chicago and SO MUCH MUSIC, because she left us so much. Gracias, Chita. Alabanza."

Ariana DeBose

Warren Carlyle

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Betty Buckley

The Tony Awards

Chicago on Broadway

Audra McDonald

Stephanie J. Block

Joan Marcus


Kristin Chenoweth

Telly Leung

Wilson Cruz

Laura Benanti

John McDaniel

New York City Gay Men's Chorus

"The New York City Gay Men’s Chorus is saddened to learn of the passing of musical theatre icon Chita Rivera. We extend our deepest condolences to Chita’s daughter Lisa, her family, and her closest friends. With a career spanning seven decades, Chita made historic contributions to Broadway, including being the first Latina to receive a Kennedy Center Honor and Presidential Medal of Freedom. We will always remember her as the original “Anita” for her breakout performance in West Side Story. In addition, we will remember Chita for being a fierce ally of the LGBTQIA+ community and a champion of the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus. She was scheduled to receive the Icon award at our annual gala Harmony on February 19. The chorus will still honor Chita and celebrate her legacy. Rest in peace, Queen."

Sierra Boggess

Andy Karl

Sony Broadway

Gloria Gaynor

Broadway Cares

54 Below

Graciela Daniele

"Chita was the greatest artist I’ve ever worked with and, most of all, the sister I never had."

James L. Nederlander

"My family and I are deeply saddened to hear the news of Chita's passing. Chita Rivera was one of a kind. A legend, an icon, a trailblazer. But most of all, a great friend and champion of musical theatre. This is a monumental loss for our industry, but we will always be grateful to have known and worked with her. Today, Broadway has lost one of its greatest stars... but her memory will live on in her iconic performances. We will miss you, Chita."

Dorian Harewood

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