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Broadway Legend Chita Rivera Dead at 91

The Boston Globe

   Legendary Broadway performer Chita Rivera has passed away at the age of 91, just seven days after her birthday and after a decades-long career on the stage and screen. Current Broadway legends and performers have paid tribute to the late actress with posts or words in her honor.  The Kennedy Center has dedicated their upcoming performance of Bye Bye Birdie, a show which she performed in as part of the original cast, to Rivera. 

   Rivera was born in our nation’s capital, Washington DC in 1933. By age 11 she was enrolled in dance school, a decision that would end up contributing to her extremely successful future career. In 1951, Rivera landed her first role in a touring company of Call Me Madam, and although that was her breakthrough role, it was not the beginning of her career as a broadway legend. 

   In 1957, just two years later, she booked the role of Anita in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. The Leonard Bernstien musical became one of the most well-known productions of all time and launched Rivera’s career to the next level, contributing to her success in the theater world. Anita became one of the most classic and popular roles in Broadway during her time and presented Rivera with the opportunity to sing one of the fan-favorite songs, “America” along with many others and an abundance of classical acting and dancing.

   In 1960, she booked the role of Rose Alvarez in the original Broadway company of Bye Bye Birdie opposite Dick Van Dyke, a role that would earn her her first Tony award nomination. Bye Bye Birdie was transformed into a movie musical in 1963 but Rivera was passed over for her original role of Rose. 

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   Although she starred in many musical productions and screen productions after Bye Bye Birdie, her next show-stopping performance came 15 years later, Chicago. Rivera starred as Velma Kelly, a performer who is serving jail time after being accused of murdering her sister and husband. Later, she starred in Chicago again but this time as Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly’s rival and yet another murder suspect. She portrayed Roxie in Toronto, Las Vegas, and London for a time. 

   Throughout her time in theater, she became an inspiration to many other artists and performers, many of whom paid tribute in wake of the news of her death. One of those performers was Hamilton star and creator Lin Manuel Miranda who directed the film adaptation of Tick Tick Boom where Rivera would appear in a cameo. On February 17, the lights in the theater will dim for one minute at 7:45 pm in her honor.

   Her career granted her the opportunity to win prestigious awards such as the Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, and more. During her career, she amassed 10 Tony nominations, tying with Audra McDonald and Julie Harris for the most nominations by an individual. In 2009, Rivera added yet another award to her collection, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented to her by former President Barack Obama.

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About the Contributor
Sophia Cooper
Sophia Cooper, Editor-In-Chief
Sophia Cooper is the Editor-in-Chief. She is a senior and this is her third year at The Buzz. When Sophia is not writing for The Buzz she is listening to music, practicing her trombone, drawing, or reading. Her favorite song is Before You Go by Lewis Capaldi and her favorite movie is Beauty and The Beast 2017 live action version on Disney+. Her favorite thing to write about is  international relations, current events, or Broadway news. After high school, she plans to study Journalism at a four year institutuon.

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