Artists - Chita Rivera 

Artist Biography

Chita Rivera, born on January 23, 1933, was an iconic American actress, singer, and dancer known for her groundbreaking contributions to musical theater. Raised in a tight-knit Puerto Rican family, Rivera’s passion for performing blossomed at a young age. With a career spanning over six decades, Rivera cemented herself as a legendary figure in Broadway history. 

Rivera’s journey into the spotlight began when she moved to New York City in pursuit of her dreams. She made her Broadway debut in 1953 in the ensemble of “Call Me Madam” before gaining recognition for her electrifying performances in blockbuster musicals such as “West Side Story” and “Bye Bye Birdie.” In “West Side Story,” Rivera portrayed the fiery and spirited Anita, the girlfriend of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks gang. Her performance in the original Broadway production in 1957 showcased her remarkable dancing ability and magnetic stage presence, earning her widespread acclaim. Rivera’s portrayal of Anita remains iconic, contributing to the enduring legacy of one of Broadway’s most beloved musicals. 

In “Bye Bye Birdie,” Rivera played the role of Rosie Alvarez, the feisty and determined secretary to Albert Peterson, a struggling music agent. Set in the 1950s, the musical follows the chaos that ensues when rock ‘n’ roll heartthrob Conrad Birdie is drafted into the army and is set to perform one final time on The Ed Sullivan Show. Rivera’s portrayal of Rosie displayed her comedic timing, vocal talent, and charm, earning her further recognition among audiences and critics alike. 

On November 11, 1960, just six months after the original Broadway opening of “Bye Bye Birdie,” Chita Rivera made her debut on The Ed Sullivan Show and performed the musical’s iconic song, “Spanish Rose”, accompanied by some incredible dance pieces. During Ed Sullivan’s introduction to Chita, he described her as “Broadway’s greatest dancer”. Rivera’s set placement was shortly after her onstage co-star, Dick Van Dyke, who performed other “Bye Bye Birdie” songs such as “We Love You Conrad” and “Put On A Happy Face”.

Rivera’s second and final appearance on the Sullivan show came two years later in June 1962 when she performed Steve Allen’s, “This Could Be The Start of Something (Big)” accompanied by six male dancers. 

Beyond her achievements on Broadway, Rivera has also made significant contributions to film and television, showcasing her talent and charisma to the Latino community and audiences worldwide. Her long and successful career earned her three Tony Awards, Kennedy Center Honors, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Rivera’s impact on the world of musical theater is immeasurable, and her legacy continues to inspire generations of performers.