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Chita Rivera is legendary for her dancing, acting and generosity. She was recently honored at the Stephen Sondheim Gala, an annual event from Signature Theatre, based in Shirlington, Virginia, held at the Italian Embassy.
In her remarks, Rivera acknowledged the role that local theaters play in developing up-and-coming actors, choreographers, composers, and production staff.
“It is so important to support theaters like Signature, especially during these past difficult years,” said the three-time Tony Award winner.
Rivera, a District native, grew up on Flagler Place NW near LeDroit Park. Her early dance training was through the historic Jones-Haywood Dance Studio, which still operates today. Rivera was Anita in the original 1957 cast of Broadway’s “West Side Story.”
The lyrics for the award-winning musical were written by Sondheim, and the music was composed by Leonard Bernstein.
The audience at the embassy heard songs associated with Rivera’s theater career. She was serenaded by Broadway’s and D.C.’s musical theatre community. Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller, who recently starred in “Guys and Dolls” at the Kennedy Center, sang “Somewhere” from “West Side Story.” Local artist and multiple award winner Nova Y. Payton, who appeared in Ford’s Theatre’s “Grace” and Signature’s “The Color Purple,” sang “A Lot of Livin’ to Do” from “Bye Bye Birdie.”
It was an exciting evening honoring a successful and legendary D.C. artist.