Signature Theatre’s Sondheim Award Gala Honors Local Icon Chita Rivera
April 6, 2023 @ 3:00pm
On April 3, local theatre legend Chita Rivera received Signature Theatre’s 12th Sondheim Award.
Chita Rivera, a living legend and beloved Latin-American actress, singer and dancer, was awarded Signature Theatre’s 12th Stephen Sondheim Award, at a sold-out black-tie soiree at the Embassy of Italy amidst heartwarming, poignant and uplifting tributes, and exhilarating songs.
The Sondheim Award honors individuals who have made important contributions to American musical theatre, and this year it celebrated the indomitable Chita Rivera, one of Broadway’s greatest triple-threat talents. Her electric performance as Anita in the original Broadway production of “West Side Story” brought her stardom and launched a storied career.
She is one of the most nominated performers in Tony Award history, having earned 10 nominations, and won three of them, including one for Lifetime Achievement in Theatre. She is the first Latina and the first Latino American to receive a Kennedy Center Honor and is a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Also celebrated this evening was entrepreneur Michelle S. Lee, founder, president and CEO of STG International, Inc. with the J. Watkins Distinguished Service Award for her incredible leadership and support for Signature and advocacy and passion for the arts and arts education.
Rivera is a unique charming, warm, passionate life force that is filled with love and care for others and her profession. She was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in the Bloomingdale neighborhood. Her mother enrolled her in the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet (now the Jones-Haywood School of Dance) and at 15 a teacher from George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet visited their studio, and Rivera was one of two students picked to audition in New York City. Rivera’s audition was a success, and she was accepted into the school and given a scholarship.
Aside from movie and TV roles and specials, Rivera’s career highlights include starring roles in Broadway musicals including Anita in “West Side Story,” Velma Kelly in “Chicago” and Aurora in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (Tony Award), “Bye Bye Birdie,” “The Rink” (Tony Award), “Jerry’s Girls” and “The Dancer’s Life.” Her credits also include the original Broadway casts of “Guys and Dolls,” “Can-Can,” “Seventh Heaven” and “Mr. Wonderful;” Broadway revivals of “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and “Nine;” and touring casts of “Born Yesterday,” “The Rose Tattoo,” “Call Me Madam,” “Threepenny Opera,” “Sweet Charity,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Zorba” and “Can-Can” with The Rockettes.
As many speakers and guests shared at the gala, despite her hectic life, Rivera has been and continues to be an inspiration, mentor and champion for so many aspiring singers and dancers. The love for this talented star was palpable all evening.
Listen to Rivera’s current solo album entitled “And Now I Swing” and her long-awaited book “Chita: A Memoir,” which will be published by HarperOne on April 25, 2023.
Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; sigtheatre.org // @sigtheatre
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