honored today with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women. I'd say it's about time. She's been performing on Broadway stages for almost sixty years, has been nominated for nine Tony awards (2 wins), and four Drama Desk awards (also 2 wins.)
She was the original Velma Kelly in Chicago, the original Rose in Bye Bye Birdie and the original Anita in West Side Story. While the movie versions of those films were cast with other actresses in those roles, Rivera had a memorable turn as Shirley MacLaine's gal-pal Nickie in Sweet Charity (1969).
Her most recent Tony nomination came in 2006 for the autobiographical Chita Rivera: A Dancer's Life in which she performed in a retrospective of her career on the stage. And if you think that the actress, who was 72 when the show opened, sat back and let a bunch of young hoofers dance around her for two hours, think again:
I was a bit of a latecomer to my theatre buffdom, so my first real exposure to Chita Rivera was in a much later re-airing of the 1981 televised performance of Pippin starring Ben Vereen and William Katt. Chita Rivera assumed the role of Fastrada, and it remains one of my favorites.
(Chita comes in around the 2:30 mark if you're impatient.)
Congratulations, Ms. Rivera, on your much-deserved honor.