2005 Entertainer of the Year
Ms. Rivera received this award during our 24th Annual National Finals Gala on July 10, 2005 at the Renaissance Orlando Resort at Sea World.
An accomplished and versatile actress/singer/dancer, Chita Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and received six additional Tony nominations. She recently starred on Broadway in the revival of the musical Nine with Antonio Banderas.
Chita received the coveted Kennedy Center Honor in Washington, DC in December 2002, and is the first Hispanic ever chosen to receive this award.
(Watch Chita's Kennedy Center Honors Segment below)
Chita’s more recent stage appearances include starring roles in The House of Bernarda Alba at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; the premiere of the new Kander/Ebb/McNally musical The Visit at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago; 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 and toured with Chita & All That Jazz, a musical celebration of her spectacular life in the theatre.
For her starring role in Kiss of the Spider Woman on Broadway, Chita received the 1993 Tony Award as Best Leading Actress in a Musical, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Achievement as an 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's performing aspirations began with ballet training at the age of 11 in her native Washington, DC. Five years later, Chita moved to New York, 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, where she began taking classes at the same time as the dancers Edward Villella, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent and Maria Tallchief.
As an aspiring 17 year-old ballerina, Chita decided to accompany a friend to an audition for the chorus of Call Me Madam. Although she had no serious intention of pursuing a part in the show, 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 theater career was born.
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. She then returned to Broadway as a featured performer in Seventh Heaven, choreographed by Peter Gennaro; and Mr. Wonderful, starring Sammy Davis, Jr.
But it was not until September 26, 1957 that 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 took some time off for the birth of her daughter, Lisa. Chita had met and married Lisa's father, dancer Tony Mordente, during the run of West Side Story. She went on to star in the London production of West Side Story, which had been postponed until Chita was ready to perform after Lisa's birth. 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 with Dick Van Dyke in the new musical, Bye Bye Birdie, in which she led the show-stopping number "Shriner's Ballet." 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 US, her triumphant performance as Jenny in the national tour of The Threepenny 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 opposite Shirley MacLaine.
But touring theatre successes often took her from home. She played Billie Dawn in Born Yesterday and Serafina in The Rose Tattoo; she toured opposite John Raitt in Zorba; and she extended her range in such productions as Kiss Me Kate, opposite Hal Linden, Jacques Brel...., and Oliver Hailey's Father's Day. All of these productions and other projects had kept Chita away from Broadway for eight years, far too long according to her friends and colleagues Fred Ebb, John Kander, and Bob Fosse. So they lured Chita back to New York to star as Velma Kelly, opposite Gwen Verdon, in their new musical, Chicago. But as soon as she arrived in New York, Chita 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 Chita in the 60's, went to work on another for her until Fosse recovered. She opened to rave reviews and capacity crowds.
Chicago opened to glorious reviews and Chita and Gwen Verdon were the toast of Broadway (1975). Both received Tony nominations as Best Actress. During the run of Chicago, Chita co-starred with Liza Minnelli for the first time, when Ms. Minnelli subbed for five weeks for an ailing Gwen Verdon.
Chita's fourth and fifth Tony nominations as Best Actress came in the early 80's with her performances opposite Donald O'Connor in Bring Back Birdie and then as the Evil Queen in Merlin, opposite Doug Henning. But it was not until 1984, when she reunited with Liza Minnelli in John Kander and Fred Ebb's new musical, The Rink, that Chita finally won her Tony as Best Actress, along with the Drama Desk Award.
Chita has been seen regularly on television, beginning with early appearances on every major show emanating from New York including Dinah Shore, Garry Moore, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett and Ed Sullivan. Other television credits include Will & Grace, Pippin (Showtime), Kennedy Center Tonight, Broadway Plays Washington, her own Chita Plus Three (HBO), The New Dick Van Dyke Show and Live From Wolftrap. Chita is also particularly proud of her participation in the National Theater 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.
For more information please visit: www.ChitaRivera.com
UPDATE - Chita launched her Broadway bound production "Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life"
The autobiographical show premiered in San Diego, CA, September 5, 2005, and debuted on Broadway on December 11, 2005. Chita's performance earned her 9th Tony Nomination (for playing HERSELF!)
UPDATE 8/2009 - Chita receives Medal of Freedom from President Obama