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Celebrities honor Chita Rivera: 'She was the essence of Broadway'

Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose, Catherine Zeta-Jones and other stars paid tribute to Broadway star Chita Rivera (pictured) following her death. File Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI
Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose, Catherine Zeta-Jones and other stars paid tribute to Broadway star Chita Rivera (pictured) following her death. File Photo by Dennis Van Tine/UPI

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- Celebrities are honoring late Broadway star Chita Rivera.

Rita Moreno, Ariana DeBose, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Debbie Allen and other stars paid tribute to Rivera on social media Tuesday following her death.

Rivera, a Tony-winning singer and actress who originated the role of Anita in the Broadway musical West Side Story and Velma Kelly in Chicago, died Tuesday at age 91.

Moreno, who played Anita in the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, remembered Rivera as "the essence of Broadway."

"Chita Rivera is eternal. I remember seeing her for the first time in Mr. Wonderful and exclaiming, 'Oh my god, who IS that'? When I found out that this astonishing creature was one of my people, I crowed with pride," Moreno wrote on Instagram.

Chita Rivera arrives on the red carpet at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in 2018 in New York City. File Photo by Serena Xu-Ning/UPI
Chita Rivera arrives on the red carpet at the Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in 2018 in New York City. File Photo by Serena Xu-Ning/UPI

"Over the years, we were sometimes mistaken for each other which I always viewed as a badge of honor," she added. "She was the essence of Broadway. As I write this, I am raising a glass to this remarkable woman and friend. Chita, amiga, Salud!"

DeBose, who portrayed Anita in the 2021 adaptation of West Side Story, called Rivera "a force."

Rita Moreno attends the Los Angeles premiere of "80 For Brady" in 2023. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Rita Moreno attends the Los Angeles premiere of "80 For Brady" in 2023. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

"She was a force. In truth she made me nervous. To be in her presence was to behold greatness. I always got the sense that she had great expectations, but none greater than the ones she held herself to..." DeBose said on Instagram. "I am heartbroken and yet ever inspired as she showed so many of us what was possible. Rest well Queen. #ChitaRivera."

Zeta-Jones, who played Velma in the 2002 film adaptation of Chicago, shared Rivera's "incredible impact" on her life.

Ariana DeBose attends the Critics' Choice Awards on Jan. 14. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Ariana DeBose attends the Critics' Choice Awards on Jan. 14. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

"There are no words to tell you what an incredible impact you have had on my life. From dreaming of being you as a little girl, then meeting you and then being deeply connected to you by playing the one and only Velma Kelly in Chicago," Zeta-Jones wrote on Instagram. "There will never, ever, be anyone like you Chita, ever. Dim the lights on Broadway! Or, may I suggest, we just pull the plug. I love you Chita, sleep tight my Queen."

Catherine Zeta-Jones attends the Cannes Film Festival opening gala in May. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI
Catherine Zeta-Jones attends the Cannes Film Festival opening gala in May. File Photo by Rune Hellestad/UPI

Allen, who portrayed Anita in the 1980 Broadway revival of West Side Story, remembered Rivera as a mentor and friend.

"My Mentor, My Friend, Our Goddess of Inspiration and Joy - Thank You," Allen said on Instagram. "Every moment of your life has been a treasure of what is possible. I will miss touching you, but I will forever hear your laughter and hold that baton of power you tossed my way."