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BWW Blog: Celebrating Chita

She will, without a doubt, continue to break barriers and redefine the meaning of “living legend” for years to come. ​​​​​​​

BWW Blog: Celebrating Chita

Broadway legend Chita Rivera celebrated her 88th birthday on January 23rd. With a stage career spanning over half a century, this triple threat deserves to have her name shouted from every theatre geek's rooftop.

After receiving a scholarship and studying at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet in NYC for three years, Chita joined the touring cast of Call Me Madam. Ten months later, she replaced a chorus dancer in the original cast of Guys and Dolls. In 1957, she landed the role of Anita in the original production of West Side Story, catapulting her career. But it wasn't until 1960, after starring as Rose Alvarez in Bye Bye Birdie, that Chita received her first Tony Award nomination. The list of nominations grew as she dazzled audiences in Chicago, Bring Back Birdie, Merlin, Jerry's Girls, Nine, Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, and The Visit. And in 1984, her critically acclaimed performance as Anna in The Rink garnered her the Tony Award for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. Her second Tony came in 1993 for Kiss of the Spiderwoman, and her complete list of 10 nominations ties her with Julie Harris as the most Tony-nominated performer.

Rivera hasn't limited herself to the stage. She's worked in a number of screen productions, giving notable performances as Nickie (Sweet Charity), Giannina (Kalamazoo), and herself in a number of documentaries. She's appeared on The Judy Garland Show, The Carol Burnett Show, The New Dick Van Dyke Show, and even voiced The Witch in Dora The Explorer! She has one album, released in 2009, titled "And Now I Sing."

Chita was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama. In 2002, she received the Kennedy Center Honors, becoming the first Hispanic woman ever chosen to receive the award. She will, without a doubt, continue to break barriers and redefine the meaning of "living legend" for years to come.

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