On January 30th tragedy struck when Broadway legend Chita Rivera passed away due to a brief illness. A pioneer for other Latina stars on the Broadway stage, Rivera was known for originating the role of Anita in the original 1957 West Side Story production and starring in other hit shows where she made a name for herself. Lin-Manuel Miranda, who you recognize from the original cast of Hamilton, penned a tribute to the late theater star along with President Biden and more.
Not only was Lin-Manuel Miranda a huge fan of Chita Rivera’s Broadway accomplishments, but he was lucky to have the chance to direct her in one of the best movie musicals of 2021, Tick, Tick…BOOM! In an Instagram post, the Hamilton actor penned a touching tribute to the Tony Award winner that will show you what a profound effect this trailblazer had on him.
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In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s beautiful tribute, he posted photos of himself and Chita Rivera all smiles working with each other. There’s also a throwback photo of the Latina dancer during her time on stage. She and a number of stage musical icons were part of the cast of Tick, Tick…BOOM! for the “Sunday” scene to show the Broadway influences that shaped Rent creator Jonathan Larson. This moving scene was filled with Easter Eggs that would make any theater fan filled with joy. I love that Miranda said he planned on playing her classic tunes to further honor her.
There’s another collaborator of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s who thought of the Bye, Bye Birdie star. Leslie Odom Jr., who worked with Miranda in the stage version of Tick, Tick…BOOM! and Hamilton, wrote two words in the comments to describe the triple-threat star perfectly.
Yes, she was. At a young age, Chita Rivera trained as a dancer and won a scholarship at 16 for the School of American Ballet. At a time when few Latina actresses had a place on the stage, Rivera showed them all for her roles in West Side Story, Guys and Dolls, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and more. Her accomplishments will never be forgotten. Another prominent figure who sent his praises to the talented performance was President Biden who issued a statement released by the White House via Deadline. Read the President’s inspirational words:
A mesmerizing dancer, singer, and actor, Chita’s work was more than entertainment – it reflects part of who we are as Americans and as human beings, and it has helped shape how we see each other and our world. Chita knew what great Americans know – it’s not how hard you get knocked down, it’s how quickly you get back up. Her dazzling charm will live on in the soul of our nation.
This is how you know Chita Rivera was such an inspiration when the President of the United States was willing to take the time to pen such an effective tribute. Ariana Debose, who played Anita in the cast of Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story and made LGBTQ+ Oscar history with her win, had some emotional words to share about the Kennedy Center Honor recipient. Choking back tears, here's what the Wish actress said on LIVE with Kelly & Mark:
I met Chita several times. I actually won a Chita Rivera Award well before I won an Oscar. That was actually one of the first things I actually won in my life. And I met her first then and then the first time I hosted The Tonys, we actually had the privilege of presenting Best Musical together that year and she welcomed me into the sisterhood. [...] She was a force of nature and she showed so many of us what was possible, especially for dancers. She broke barriers. Because she was, I am. And we all miss her a great deal, but we’ll work very hard to keep her legacy alive and do it very well.
Ariana Debose was incredibly lucky to have the privilege to present with her at The Tonys and get to play the role she originated for the Steven Spielberg remake. One more incredible tribute made for Chita Rivera was by Rita Moreno who portrayed Anita in the 1961 musical film West Side Story and won Best Supporting Actress for it. In her Instagram tribute, here’s what she had to say about the woman she said people constantly compared her to.
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It’s a beautiful thing when celebrities take the time to honor an incredible talent who broke the mold for Latina stars like Rita Morena, Ariana Debose, and other upcoming actresses on the Broadway stage. Her accomplishments and legacy will hold dear to those who worked with her as well as her fans. You can watch her latest film performance in Tick, Tick…BOOM! on your Netflix subscription.