Chita: A Memoir

HarperOne. Apr. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9780063226791. $27.99. MEMOIR
Rivera’s memoir, written with Patrick Pacheco (American Theater Wing, an Oral History) begins in 1957. That’s when the young unknown dancer landed the role of Anita in a new work that would change musical theater forever: West Side Story. Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero to a Scottish Irish mother and a Puerto Rican father in Washington, DC, in 1933, Rivera was enrolled in a ballet class by her mother at a young age. At 15, she was discovered by an American School of Ballet teacher, who whisked her off to New York to dance. Besides Anita, Rivera went on to originate the Broadway roles of Rosie Grant in Bye Bye Birdie and Velma Kelly in Chicago. But when it came time for the movie versions of those productions, she was passed over. Though she had a few film roles (Sweet Charity), a film career eluded her. But she’s earned 10 Tony nominations and three wins, including a lifetime achievement award. She candidly shares backstage stories about the Broadway greats she worked with, including Bob Fosse, Liza Minnelli, Sammy Davis Jr., and others.
VERDICT An enjoyable and inspiring inside look at a life in the theater; will be of interest to celebrity watchers and aspiring actors.
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