An accomplished and versatile actress/singer/ dancer, Chita Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and received seven additional Tony nominations. She recently starred in the Broadway and touring productions of The Dancer’s Life, a dazzling new musical celebrating her spectacular career, written by Terence McNally and directed by Graciela Daniele. Chita was awarded the Presidential Medal of freedom by President Barack Obama on August 12, 2009. She received the coveted Kennedy Center Honor in Washington, DC in December, 2002 and is the first Hispanic ever chosen to receive this award.
This past spring, Chita recreated her starring role in The Visit, the new Kander/Ebb/McNally musical at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA, which originally premiered at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago. Her more recent stage appearances include starring roles in the revival of the musical Nine with Antonio Banderas on Broadway; The House of Bernarda Alba at the mark Taper Forum in Los Angleles; Venecia, a new Argentinean play directed by Arthur Laurents at the George Street Playhouse; Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes at Paper Mill Playhouse. She also starred in the London, Las Vegas and Toronto productions of Chicago-The Musical.
For her starring roll in Kiss of the Spider Woman on Broadway, Chita received the Tony Award as Best Leading Actress in a musical, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical, The Outer Critics Circle Award as Outstanding Actress in a Musical, the Drama League Award for Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theatre and The Astaire Award honoring outstanding achievement in Broadway Dance. Chita first played the role of the Spider Woman in the Toronto production of the show, receiving unanimous acclaim. She then repeated her triumph in the London production of Spider Woman, which won the Evening Standard Award as Best Musical of the Year. This was followed by the Broadway and touring productions.
Chita’s performing aspirations began with ballet training at the age of 11 in her native Washington. Five years later she moved to NewYork where she auditioned for legendary choreographer George Balanchine. Balanchine of course recognized Chita’s talent and gave her a scholarship to the American School of Ballet.
As an aspiring 17 year-old ballerina, Chita decided to accompany a friend to an audition for the chorus of Call Me Madam. Chita was cast as a principal dancer and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The ballet world’s loss was Broadway’s gain – a future legend’s theatre career was born.
After completing a cross-country tour of Call Me Madam, Chita returned to New York as a principal dancer in Can-Can.
Chita then went Off-Broadway to prove that she could do more than dance, doing so to great acclaim with her amazing performance in Ben Bagley’s Shoestring Revue, in which she did the very first Marilyn Monroe impersonation. Chita then returned to Broadway as a featured performer in Seventh Heaven; and Mr. Wonderful.
But it was not until Chita made the transition from accomplished Broadway performer to a toast of the town Broadway star with her electric performance as Anita in the Broadway premiere of West Side Story. Chita then went on to star in the London production of West Side Story. Chita’s New York success was repeated in London and she stayed with the show there for a year. She then returned to Broadway to star as Rosie in the new musical Bye Bye Birdie. Her rousing performance earned a Tony Nomination as Best Actress. Chita then reprised her role in the London production of Bye Bye Birdie at her Majesty’s Theatre, where she first achieved London stardom in West Side Story.
Back in the U.S. her triumphant performance as Jenny in the national tour or The Three Penny Opera, was soon followed by the title role in the national tour of Bob Fosse’s Sweet Charity. Chita was also cast in the film version of Sweet Charity, in which she played Nicky.
Touring theatre successes often took her from home. After eight years on the road, far to long according to her friends and colleagues Fred Ebb, John Kander and Bob Fosse they lured Chita back to New York to star as Velma Kelly, in their new musical, Chicago.
As soon as she arrived, she discovered that Chicago’s rehearsals had been postponed because director/choreographer Fosse was ill. It was then that Fred Ebb who had written a highly-successful nightclub act for her in the past went to work on another until Fosse recovered. She opened to rave reviews and capacity crowds.
Chita’s fourth & fifth Tony nominations as Best Actress came with her performance in Bring Back Birdie and as the Evil Queen in Merlin. But it was not until she starred with Liza Minelli in the new musical The Rink, that Chita finally won her Tony as Best Actress along with the Drama Desk Award. Chita returned to Broadway again shortly after The Rink in Jerry’s Girls. Chita toured the country (and Japan) in Can-Can, co-starring the Radio City Musical Hall Rockettes. In 2003 she received her sixth Tony Nomination for Nine.
Chita’s critically-acclaimed concert dates continued to play to ovations from packed houses around the world. Chita has been seen regularly on television with appearances emanating from N.Y including Judy Garland, Carol Burnett and Ed Sullivan. Other TV credits include Will & Grace, Kennedy Center Tonight, Broadway Plays Washington. Chita is also particularly proud of her participation in the National Theatre of the Deaf’s presentation of The Road to Cordoba. Chita, who now lives in Westchester County, New York, names her daughter singer/dancer/choreographer, Lisa Mordente, as her most treasured production