Legendary Broadway Star Chita Rivera Passes Away at 91 After Battling a Brief Illness

For nearly 80 years, Chita Rivera dominated Broadway as she won two Tony Awards and even received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. She was the first Latino American to win the Kennedy Center Honor as well. Throughout her years on Broadway, the talented star landed roles in West Side Story, Chicago, Nine, and Bye Bye Birdie. She also transitioned over to Hollywood with roles in Will & Grace and Tick, Tick…Boom! Sadly, on January 30, 2024, news broke that the icon passed away at 91 years old. 

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While sharing a statement about Rivera’s passing, her representative Merle Frimark said, “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.” Frimark added that the star was surrounded by loved ones and that her funeral was to be a “private” engagement. For those looking to honor the star, the family asked for all donations to go to the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. 

Rivera’s daughter, Lisa Mordente, informed NBC News that her mother died “after a brief illness.” 

Chita Rivera Wanted Two Lifetimes

Although a legend on Broadway, back in 2009, Rivera discussed her stardom on stage and how it almost never happened. Before landing on Broadway, the singer admitted to growing up in a home with a “very strict” father and four siblings. While studying dance at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet at 11 years old, she explained how she eventually trained in New York City after her father passed. “We were never quite sure whether or not I would have been allowed to go to New York at the age of 14 to continue my schooling there, to accept a scholarship… had he been alive. Who knows?” 

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Besides recalling herself being an overactive child growing up, Rivera explained how jumping on furniture led her to ballet. “I missed one time, and I went through the coffee table. And my mother said, ‘That’s it, you’re out of here. You’re going to a ballet school.'”

While watching herself become a piece of Broadway history over the decades, Rivera once reflected on her name in lights, stating how she wanted two lifetimes. “I always used to think that we should have two lifetimes: one to try it out, and the second one to know what’s coming.”

 (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions )

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