Remembering Chita Rivera

Chita Rivera, the dynamic American singer, actress, and dancer, passed away last Tuesday, January 30th. She was 91.

In 1957, Rivera was catapulted to stardom when she created the role of Anita in the original Broadway production of West Side Story. Among the musical’s iconic moments was Rivera’s dazzling performance in the first act ensemble dance number, America. Later, she recalled the excitement of “watching Leonard Bernstein setting down notes that would later be heard and loved by everyone, and watching Jerome Robbins suddenly come up with a masterful step that we would later become known as an integral part of the performance.”

In 1960, she co-starred with Dick Van Dyke in Bye Bye Birdie, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams. Rivera went on to collaborate with Bob Fosse in Chicago (1975), in the role of Velma Kelly.

Leonard Bernstein’s America unfolds with a dizzying alternation between simple and compound time. Stephen Sondheim, the show’s lyricist, recalled that West Side Story‘s first audiences were disturbingly reserved during the first act’s initial scenes. Only with the arrival of America, did the audience loosen up and realize they were in the musical theater. Here is America from the original cast recording of West Side Story:

Chita Rivera performed Spanish Rose from Bye Bye Birdie on The Ed Sullivan Show, shortly after the musical’s opening:

Featured Image: Chita Rivera and members of the original Broadway cast of “West Side Story” in 1957

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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