Video Binge: Chita Rivera — Lifetime Achievement in Spades
Chita Rivera is receiving a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award at this year’s ceremony, and I simply cannot think of any performer who now, or ever, has deserved it more. With all due respect to any performer who carves out an enduring career in the theatre, no other actress has demonstrated such longevity, durability, and talent in this business. Few others have been quite as beloved.
Let us consider for a moment that Ms. Rivera has starred in a Broadway musical every decade since the 1950s, often originating roles and giving them her own distinctive flair. She is also a powerhouse triple threat: singing, acting, and most impressively, dancing, through originating such roles such as Anita in West Side Story, Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie, and Velma Kelly in Chicago.
It hasn’t all been sunshine and Santa Clause for Chita Rivera. She’s appeared in her share of flops including Bajour, Bring Back Birdie, and Merlin. She has always maintained a sense of humor in spite of these productions that didn’t run.
Let us also not forget that Chita Rivera survived a car crash that practically splintered in her leg, yet she soldiered on to glory, resurrecting her patented Chita kicks when she embodied Aurora in Kiss of the Spider Woman. She is a multiple Tony nominee and two time Tony winner, taking home trophies for her exemplary work in The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman. She has performed one-woman shows, cabaret acts, and participated in myriad Broadway fundraisers.
Perhaps what I find most refreshing about Ms. Rivera is how people in show business speak so highly of her. She has all the makings of a diva, and the resume to back it up, but that is not the legacy she has chosen for herself. Performers speak of her as an ensemble player, generous and kind to everyone. A dancer at heart, Rivera grew out of the chorus of gypsies and she continues to count herself amongst their ranks.
With all of this in mind, I heartily congratulate our dear Chita on this well-deserved accolade befitting a career that has been a true demonstration of professionalism, hard work, and surviving the ups and downs of this business we call show. In honor of her Lifetime Achievement Tony, here are some video clips of Ms. Rivera doing what she does best.