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Full Name at Birth
Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Claim to Fame
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Chita Rivera (born January 23, 1933) is an American actress, dancer, and singer best known for her roles in musical theatre. She is the first Hispanic woman and the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award (December 2002). She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.
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Music Profile Complete
Profile Bio Text
What becomes a legend? Broadway's Chita Rivera deservedly earned her status with a limitless talent, an incredible endurance and longevity, perhaps a bit of luck in the gene pool, long and gorgeous gams, lots of pizzazz, and that certain something that has made her a crowd favorite for five decades. The daughter of late musician Pedro del Rivero, Chita was born in 1933 and was training in ballet by age 11 in Washington D.C. She moved to New York with her family and auditioned as a young teenager for choreographer George Ballachine and his American School of Ballet. Quite taken by her potential, she won a scholarship. However, fate took over when at 17 she happened to audition (by accident) for a chorus part in "Call Me Madam" and won it . The rest is musical comedy history. Dancing roles in "Guys and Dolls" and "Can-Can" followed before she was upgraded to featured role status in "Seventh Heaven" and "Mr. Wonderful" with Sammy Davis, Jr. After six years of hard work, she became an "overnight" star after being hired for the part of Anita in 1957's "West Side Story." It was during this production that she met and eventually married (during the run of the play) dancer Tony Mordente, who played Arab, one of the Jet gang members. So electric in the show was she that the London premiere of "West Side Story" was postponed until she had her baby (Lisa Mordente) and could return to the show. Hit after hit followed with Chita now the lead femme. Rosie in "Bye Bye Birdie," Jenny in "The Threepenny Opera" and a tour of "Sweet Charity" rounded out her spectacular 1960s work. Even middle age would not slow her down. After years of touring, she and another still-limber star, Gwen Verdun, hit it big again in New York co-starring in Bob Fosse's "Chicago" in 1975 with Gwen as the infamous Roxie Hart and Chita playing her fiery prison rival Velma Kelly. Other notable turns included the 'Birdie' sequel of "Bring Back Birdie," plus "Merlin," "Pippin," "The Rink" and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman." Chita also impressed in straight dramatic stage roles over the years with yeoman work in "Born Yesterday" as Billie Dawn, "Father's Day," "The Visit" in which she won the Sarah Siddons Award, and most recently in "The House of Bernarda Alba." Chita would also become a perennial favorite at the Tony awards. She has won twice for her work in "The Rink" and "Kiss of the Spiderwoman." On TV she appeared on all the major musical variety hits ("Ed Sullivan, Dinah Shore, Garry Moore, Carol Burnett") but has had too few acting parts. The key to her love for performing may be in the need and thrill of a live audience for her time on film has also been extremely limited. Fondly remembered for her kinetic leg work in "Sweet Charity" (1969) with Shirley MacLaine and Paula Kelly, Chita never managed to recreate any of her stage triumphs for film. Interestingly, she was glimpsed in a cameo in the 2003 movie version of "Chicago." At age 70+ and still a cabaret razzle-dazzler from time to time, she recently copped her eighth (thus far) Tony nomination in 2003 for her scene-stealing work in "Nine." Chita, the Broadway national treasure and recipient of the Kennedy Center honor (2002) and Astaire Award for lifetime achievement (2003), shows no signs of stopping.
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