Chita Rivera Reflects on Career After ‘Amazing’ 90th Birthday Celebration: ‘So Many Great Roles’
A milestone celebration! Chita Rivera’s daughter, Lisa Mordente, threw her “an amazing party in Manhattan” for her 90th birthday on January 30. “When I spied a celebratory banner with that huge number, I shivered,” the Broadway icon shared in an interview featured in AARP The Magazine’s April/May 2023 issue.
Chita was born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in 1933 to a Puerto Rican father and a Scottish-Irish mother.
“I was raised Catholic, and I’ve often said I have two angels — Chita and Dolores — one on each shoulder,” the Tony Awards Lifetime Achievement recipient continued. “Chita was the people pleaser. Dolores would tell it like it was.”
During her recent birthday celebration, she admitted her “Chita side” definitely made an appearance.
“I let them keep the banner up,” she reflected. “But I don’t want to leave. The body might change, but the heart remains constant.”
The talented entertainer has certainly had a career full of highs. Her journey to stardom began in her teen years when she attended one of the most renowned dance schools in the U.S. — the School of American Ballet. “One step, one plié, led to another — and, ultimately, Broadway,” The New Dick Van Dyke Show alum said.
Chita landed a number of breakthrough roles on some of the Big Apple’s most iconic stages. In 1957, she was cast as Anita in West Side Story. The plot of the musical had a very deep and emotional impact on the community at the time.
“It was a job but became something so much bigger, in part because that musical was ripped from the headlines,” Chita said. “Somebody had just been killed at a playground down the street — the article was pinned to a board near the theater entrance. ‘This is your life,’ I thought.”
The songstress also appeared in Bye Bye Birdie, Bob Fosse’s Chicago, Bring Back Birdie and Merlin before winning her first Tony Award for her role in The Rink alongside Liza Minnelli in 1984. After pulling off a number of unforgettable portrayals throughout her 70 years as a performer, Chita couldn’t imagine having life any other way.
“I would be so selfish to have wanted any other roles, because I’ve had so many great ones: Anita, Velma in Chicago, the title role in Kiss of the Spider Woman,” she reflected, before jokingly adding, “I’m pretty satisfied, but there are five Tony’s out there that should have been mine!”