Tributes pour in for beloved Broadway legend Chita Rivera

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Thursday, February 1, 2024
Friends and fans remember Chita Rivera
Lucy Yang is on Broadway with the tributes.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- From Broadway and Hollywood stars to local politicians, tributes are pouring in following the death of revered and pioneering Tony-winning dancer and singer, Chita Rivera.

Rivera's death was announced by her daughter, Lisa Mordente, who said she died Tuesday in New York after a brief illness.

The dynamic dancer, singer and actor who garnered 10 Tony nominations, winning twice, during a long Broadway career that forged a path for Latina artists, died at the age of 91.

Unsurprisingly, her legacy left an indelible mark on the entertainment industry, leading to an outpouring of tributes from stars like 'Hamilton's' Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ariana DeBose.

RELATED | Chita Rivera talks about Broadway, West Side Story, and the Winter Garden

Broadway legend, Chita Rivera, recently sat down with WABC-TV for an exclusive interview inside the historic Winter Garden Theatre, where she played Anita in the original Broadway production of West Side Story.

"The trailerblazer for P.R., 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," Miranda said in an Instagram post. "My heart is with everyone in Chita's galaxy of family and friends. We'll be blasting WSS and Bye Bye Birdie and Chicago and SO MUCH MUSIC, because she left us so much. Gracias, Chita. Alabanza."

"She was a force. In truth she made me nervous. To be in her presence was to behold greatness. I always got the sense that she had great expectations, but none greater than the ones she held herself to...I am heartbroken and yet ever inspired as she showed so many of us what was possible. Rest well Queen," DeBose said in an Instagram post.

Actress Rita Moreno, who followed Rivera in playing Anita in 'West Side Story,' posted her own touching tribute on Instagram.

"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!"

'Chicago The Musical' also posted a tribute on X honoring Rivera, who played the original Velma Kelly, and also played Roxie at a number of locations.

Joe Torres has more on the reaction to Chita Rivera's death.

"We are heartbroken to learn Chita Rivera has passed away at 91. She was the original Velma Kelly and also played Roxie in Toronto, Las Vegas & London. Chita's influence, warmth, and other-worldly talent will inspire us always. Tonight's show is for her."

The current cast of the musical also paid tribute at the Ambassador Theatre Tuesday night:

"She lives on in our hearts, on this stage, in every performance. We love you Chita. Thank you."

Here are some other tributes posted in honor of Rivera:

'Seinfeld' actor Jason Alexander

"This extraordinary woman, the incomparable. Chita Rivera was one of the greatest spirits and colleagues I've ever known. She set the bar in every way. I will cherish her always. Dance in heaven, my friend."

Actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth

"Chita, There was only you. Then everyone else. I looked up to you and always will admire you as a talent and mostly as a person! A kick butt woman you were. All the rest of us just wanna be you. RIP CHITA."

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul

"From the Bronx to Broadway, the legendary Chita Rivera lit up every room she was in. She shattered countless glass ceilings, brought joy to theaters across America, and paved a path for the next generation of performers. I send my heartfelt condolences to her family."

New York Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez

"Chita Rivera was a trailblazer and Broadway legend who took pride in her Puerto Rican heritage and helped pave the way for other Latina artists. My thoughts and prayers are with her family. May she rest in peace."

Co-author of 'Chita, A Memoir' - Patrick Pacheco

Patrick Pacheco, who helped write Rivera's memoir, 'Chita, A Memoir,' says she was grateful for everything she got.

"She wanted more of it because she lived for the stage," Pacheco said.

CEO of Ballet Hispánico - Eduardo Vilaro

"We need to continuously sing her praises and make sure she is part of the canon of musical theatre," said Eduardo Vilaro, CEO of Ballet Hispánico. "Put up on that throne she deserves. She's a queen"


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