Chita Rivera
Rivera in 2022
Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Anderson

(1933-01-23) January 23, 1933 (age 90)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Occupation(s)Actress, dancer, singer
Years active1950–present
(m. 1957; div. 1966)
ChildrenLisa Mordente
External audio
audio icon "Chita Rivera" performs America and All That Jazz from 1982 on YouTube

Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Anderson[note 1] (born January 23, 1933),[1] professionally known as Chita Rivera, is an American actress, singer and dancer who originated roles in Broadway musicals including Anita in West Side Story, Velma Kelly in Chicago, and the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman. She is a ten-time Tony Award nominee and a three-time Tony Award recipient, including one for Lifetime Achievement.[2] She is the first Latina and the first Latino American[3] to receive a Kennedy Center Honor and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[4] Her autobiography, Chita: A Memoir, was published in 2023.[5]

Early life and education

Rivera was born in Washington, D.C., the daughter of Katherine (Anderson), a government clerk, and Pedro Julio Figueroa del Rivero,[6][7] a clarinetist and saxophonist for the United States Navy Band. Her father was Puerto Rican and her mother was of Scottish, Irish, and African-American descent.[8] Rivera is one of five children.[9] Rivera was seven years old when her mother was widowed and went to work at The Pentagon.

In 1944, Rivera's mother enrolled her in the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet (now the Jones Haywood School of Dance).[10] Later, when she was 15, a teacher from George Balanchine's School of American Ballet visited their studio, and Rivera was one of two students picked to audition in New York City; she was accompanied to the audition by Doris Jones, one of the people who ran the Jones-Haywood School. Rivera's audition was successful, and she was accepted into the school and given a scholarship.[11]



In 1951, Rivera accompanied a friend to the audition for the touring company of Call Me Madam starring Elaine Stritch and ended up winning the role herself. She followed this by landing roles in other Broadway productions such as Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Mr. Wonderful starring Sammy Davis, Jr., and Seventh Heaven[12] and dancing on The Maurice Chevalier Special in 1956.[13] In 1957, she was cast as Anita in West Side Story, the role which would make her a Broadway star.

In 1960, Rivera was nominated for a Tony Award[2] for creating the role of Rose in Bye Bye Birdie opposite Dick Van Dyke. She appeared three times on The Ed Sullivan Show[13] and won raves for her performance on Broadway and in London opposite Peter Marshall, but was passed over for the film version where the role was played by Janet Leigh. In 1963, Rivera was a guest on The Judy Garland Show and was cast opposite Alfred Drake in Zenda. The Broadway-bound musical closed on the road but in 1964, Rivera returned to Broadway in Bajour[12] and television in The Outer Limits[13].

After seeing her perform in the musical, legendary music producer Norman Petty approached her in New York and inquired about recording with him. Her first single was released in 1965 on the Dot Records label, with a second single issued in 1966. Making a trip to Petty's studio in Clovis, NM in 1966, she was backed by The Fireballs for a full album of Buddy Holly cover songs, but the project went unreleased.

Among many national tours, Rivera starred most notably in Sweet Charity directed by Bob Fosse, playing the role of Nickie in the film adaptation of Sweet Charity with Shirley MacLaine (1969).[11] Rivera appeared three times on The Hollywood Palace, twice on The Carol Burnett Show (including an episode airing February 22, 1971[14][13]) and between 1973 and 1974, played Connie Richardson on The New Dick Van Dyke Show.[13] In 1975, Rivera was nominated for a Tony Award[2] starring as Velma Kelly opposite Gwen Verdon in the original cast of the musical Chicago,[11] directed by Bob Fosse. In addition to her ballet instructors, Rivera cites Leonard Bernstein and Verdon, with whom she starred in Chicago, as influential to her success.[15] She later made a cameo appearance in the 2002 film version. She appeared as Fastrada in a filmed-for-television version of the musical Pippin in 1981, and was nominated for Tony and Drama Desk awards for Bring Back Birdie (1981)[16] and a Tony Award for Merlin (1983) on Broadway.[2]

In 1984, Rivera starred in the Kander and Ebb musical The Rink with Liza Minnelli and won her first Tony and Drama Desk awards for her role as Anna. In 1986, while earning a Tony Award nomination[2] for her performance in the Jerry Herman musical, Jerry's Girls, Rivera was in a severe accident when her car collided with a taxi on West 86th Street in Manhattan. Injuries sustained included the breaking of her left leg in twelve places, requiring eighteen screws and two braces to mend. After rehabilitation, Rivera continued to perform on stage. Recovered, in 1988, she toured the country in Can-Can and got involved in a restaurant venture in partnership with the novelist Daniel Simone. The eatery, located on 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenue, was named "Chita's" after her. It soon became a significant attraction for the after-theater crowds and operated until 1994.[11]


Rivera with President Barack Obama prior to receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, August 2009

In 1993, Rivera received Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for her dual portrayal of Aurora and Spider Woman in the musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, written by Kander and Ebb.[11] Rivera later participated in the London edition of Kander and Ebb's long-running revival of Chicago, this time in the role of Roxie Hart. Rivera starred in the Goodman Theatre production of the musical The Visit (also by Kander and Ebb) as Claire Zachanassian in 2001. In 2002, she became a Kennedy Center Honoree.[17] In 2003, Rivera returned to Broadway in the 2003 revival of Nine as Liliane La Fleur and received her eighth career Tony Award nomination (Best Featured Actress in a Musical) and fourth Drama Desk Award nomination (Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical). She appeared with Antonio Banderas. She later appeared on the revival's cast album.[11]

She guest-starred along with Michele Lee in a February 2005 episode of Will & Grace, and in December of that year, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, a retrospective of her career, opened on Broadway. She received another Tony nomination for her self-portrayal. Though she was expected to reprise her role in a Signature Theatre staging of The Visit in autumn of 2007, that was later postponed to the following season. Instead, she performed at New York's Feinstein's at the Regency supper club in New York for two weeks and, in 2008, appeared in a revised production of The Visit at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, co-starring George Hearn.[11][18] Rivera guest-starred on Disney Channel's Johnny and the Sprites as Queen of All Magical Beings. The episode debuted on March 15, 2008.[19]

In August 2009, US President Barack Obama presented Rivera the Presidential Medal of Freedom.[4] In the 1960s Rivera had recorded two albums, Chita Rivera: Get Me To The Church On Time and And Now I Sing. These early 1960s albums were reissued on CD by Stage Door Records in February 2013.[11] In November 2008, Rivera released her third solo album, And Now I Swing. Rivera performed in a staged concert of The Visit as a benefit at the Ambassador Theatre on November 30, 2011.[20] In 2012, Rivera played "Princess Puffer" in the Broadway revival of The Mystery of Edwin Drood at Studio 54. She was the Grand Marshal of the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City on June 9, 2013.

Rivera returned to Broadway in The Visit, the final musical written by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Terrence McNally. The musical opened at the Lyceum Theatre on March 26, 2015, and closed on June 14, 2015. Co-starring Roger Rees, the production was directed by John Doyle and choreographed by Graciela Daniele.[21] Rivera received praise for her performance, and was nominated for a Tony Award, Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical[22] and a Drama Desk Award.[23] The Astaire Awards were rebranded The Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography in 2017.[24] In 2018, she received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.[25] In 2019, Time Out New York named her "one of the best Broadway divas of all time."[26]

Rivera has been a frequent guest narrator at Disney's Candlelight Processional at Walt Disney World, most recently appearing in the 2021 and 2022 seasons. [27]

Personal life

On December 1, 1957, Rivera married fellow West Side Story dancer Tony Mordente. Her performance was so important for the success of the show that the London production of West Side Story was postponed until she gave birth to the couple's daughter Lisa in 1958. They were divorced in 1966.

She is Roman Catholic.[28]

Select stage credits

Year Title Role Venue Notes
1950 Guys and Dolls Dancer 46th Street Theatre Replacement
1953 Can-Can Dancer Shubert Theatre
1955 Seventh Heaven Fifi ANTA Playhouse
1956 Mr. Wonderful Rita Romano Broadway Theatre
1957 Shinbone Alley Mehitabel
West Side Story Anita Winter Garden Theatre
1960 Bye Bye Birdie Rose Grant Martin Beck Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical
1964 Bajour Anyanka Shubert Theatre
1975 Chicago Velma Kelly 46th Street Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
1981 Bring Back Birdie Rose Grant Martin Beck Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
1983 Merlin The Queen Mark Hellinger Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
1984 The Rink Anna Martin Beck Theatre Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
1985 Jerry's Girls Performer St. James Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
1993 Kiss of the Spider Woman Spider Woman/Aurora Broadhurst Theatre Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
2003 Nine Liliane La Fleur Eugene O'Neill Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical
2005 Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life Herself Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
2012 The Mystery of Edwin Drood The Princess Puffer / Miss Angela Prysock Studio 54
2015 The Visit Claire Zachannassian Lyceum Theatre Nominated - Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical


Paula Kelly (third from right) and Chita Rivera (second from right) in
Sweet Charity (1969).


Year Title Role Notes
1969 Sweet Charity Nickie
1978 Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band Guest at Heartland
1983 He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin' Herself Documentary
2002 Chicago Nickie Cameo Role
2003 Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There Herself Documentary
2006 Kalamazoo? Giannina
2010 The Drawn Together Movie: The Movie! Singer Voice
2012 Carol Channing: Larger Than Life Herself Documentary
Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky Herself Documentary
Ben Vereen: Last of the Showmen Herself Documentary
Move Herself Documentary
2018 Still Waiting in the Wings Broadway Diva Documentary
2021 Tick, Tick... Boom! "Sunday" Legend


Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Maurice Chevalier Show Herself 1 episode
1960 The Gary Moore Show Herself 1 episode
1963 The Judy Garland Show Herself Episode 17
1964 The Outer Limits Mrs. Dame Episode: "The Bellero Shield"
1965 The Hollywood Palace Herself 1 episode
1971 The Carol Burnett Show Various characters Episode: "4.22"
1973 The Marcus-Nelson Murders Josie Hopper Television film
1973-1974 The New Dick Van Dyke Show Connie Richardson Main role; 7 episodes
1977 Once Upon a Brothers Grimm Gingerbread Lady Episode: "Hansel and Gretel"
1981 Pippin: His Life and Times Fastrada Television film
1982 One Life to Live Melody Rambo Recurring role
Strawberry Ice Performer Television film
1987 Mayflower Madam Risa Dickstein Television film
1997 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child Katy Voice, episode: "Thumbelina"
2004, 2019 Dora The Explorer The Witch Voice, 2 episodes
2005 Will & Grace Lenore Portillo Episode: "Dance Cards and Greeting Cards"
2008 Johnny and the Sprites The Queen Episode: "Johnny Not Invited"
2011 Submissions Only Gladys Franklin Episode: "Yore So Bad"

Awards, nominations and honors

Rivera has been nominated for the Tony Award ten times, as either Best Featured Actress in a Musical or Best Actress in a Musical. This is the current record for the most individual Tony Award nominations, which she shares with Julie Harris and Audra McDonald.

In 2009, she was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama.

Rivera was honored as The New Jewish Home's Eight Over Eighty Gala 2016 honoree.

She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Florida in 2018.[29]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1961 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Bye Bye Birdie Nominated
1976 Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Chicago Nominated
1981 Bring Back Birdie Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
1983 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Merlin Nominated
1984 The Rink Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Won
1986 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Jerry's Girls Nominated
1993 Kiss of the Spider Woman Won
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Won
2002 Kennedy Center Honors Kennedy Center Honors Herself Won
2003 Tony Award Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Nine Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
2006 Tony Award Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life Nominated
2015 The Visit Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Won
Theatre World Award John Willis Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre.[30] Herself Won
2018 Tony Award Lifetime Achievement in Theatre Won

See also


  1. ^


  1. ^ Rose, Mike (January 23, 2023). "Today's famous birthdays list for January 23, 2023 includes celebrities Mariska Hargitay, Chita Rivera". Retrieved January 23, 2023.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Chita Rivera Tony Awards Info". Broadway World. Retrieved September 25, 2020.
  3. ^ "In 35 Years, Kennedy Center has Honored Only One Hispanic American…Chita Rivera". AllGov.
  4. ^ a b "President Obama Names Medal of Freedom Recipients", White House Office of the Press Secretary, July 30, 2009
  5. ^ Morris, Bob (April 17, 2023). "Chita Rivera on Love, Showbiz and All That Jazz". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 17, 2023.
  6. ^ "Chita Rivera Biography" Retrieved October 29, 2011
  7. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on November 13, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2015.
  8. ^ "Chita Rivera: What I Know Now". AARP. March 27, 2023. Retrieved May 17, 2023.
  9. ^ "Lighting Up The Stage With Stars Of A Certain Age -- For Chita Rivera And A Host Of Other Veteran Actresses, Age Is No Longer An Issue | The Seattle Times". Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  10. ^ Kaufman, Sarah L (March 15, 2016). "How Chita Rivera keeps dancing at 83, with 16 screws in her leg". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Ratner-Arias, Sigal (September 4, 2009). "Q&A: Chita Rivera reflects on life in the theater". Taiwan News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Chita Rivera – Broadway Cast & Staff". IBDB. Retrieved September 26, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Welcome to Chita". Retrieved October 11, 2020.
  14. ^ The Carol Burnett Show Collector's Edition
  15. ^ "Website of the Jones Haywood School of Dance"
  16. ^ Skethway, Nathan (March 5, 2020). "Look Back at Chita Rivera and Donald O'Connor in Bring Back Birdie on Broadway". Playbill. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  17. ^ "Tony Winner Chita Rivera to Receive Kennedy Center Honor". Playbill. July 30, 2002. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  18. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Chita and Company: Cast Is Complete for Signature's 'The Visit'" Archived April 12, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,, April 8, 2008
  19. ^ Hernandez, Ernio (February 22, 2008). "Photo Call: Chita Rivera Crowned Queen in 'Johnny and the Sprites'". Playbill. Archived from the original on September 11, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  20. ^ Haun, Harry. "A New Kind of Spider Woman: Chita Rivera Wows Broadway Crowd in Concert of Kander & Ebb's 'The Visit'" Archived December 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine,, December 1, 2011.
  21. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "A Musical Nearly 20 Years in the Making: 'The Visit', Starring Chita Rivera, Arrives On Broadway at Long Last" Playbill/, March 26, 2015
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew. "69th Annual Tony Awards Nominations Announced!" Playbill, April 28, 2015
  23. ^ Cox, Gordon (April 23, 2015). "Drama Desk Nominations: 'Hamilton' Leads the Polls (FULL LIST)". Variety. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  24. ^ McPhee, Ryan (March 30, 2017). "The Astaire Awards, Honoring the Best in Dance, Are Now the Chita Rivera Awards". Playbill. Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  25. ^ BWW News Desk. "Chita Rivera Wins 2018 Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement Award". Retrieved October 4, 2020.
  26. ^ "The Best Broadway Divas of All Time". Time Out New York. October 30, 2019. Retrieved October 6, 2020.
  27. ^ Candlelight Processional 2022 narrators
  28. ^ Correspondent, R. Scott Reedy (October 10, 2018). "Join iconic Broadway star Chita Rivera for conversation and song with Seth Rudetsky". MetroWest Daily News, Framingham, MA.
  29. ^ Gans, Andrew. Chita Rivera Will Receive Honorary Doctorate From University of Florida Playbill, April 9, 2018
  30. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Dates Announced for 71st Annual Theatre World Awards; Chita Rivera To Be Honored" Playbill, May 1, 2015

Further reading