April 22, 2024


When the spotlight shines on Chita Rivera, a legend of Broadway, it’s easy to get lost in the dazzling brilliance of her long, illustrious career.

But behind the curtain, her personal life unfolded in a quieter key, with her first husband, Tony Mordente, playing a role as significant as any of her on-stage partners.

Their story began on the pulsating pulse of New York’s theater scene.

Both young dancers, found themselves sharing the stage in the original 1957 production of “West Side Story.” Chita, the fiery Anita, and Tony, a member of the Jets, ignited a spark off-stage that culminated in a marriage on December 1st, 1957.

It was a whirlwind romance, fueled by the intoxicating mix of Broadway’s adrenaline and youthful dreams. Chita was already making waves with her fierce talent, and with “Anita” she landed a career-defining role.

Her performance was so integral to the show that when she became pregnant just months later, the London production of “West Side Story” was put on hold until she gave birth.

In July 1958, their world expanded with the arrival of their daughter, Lisa. Chita juggled the demands of motherhood with her burgeoning career, returning to the stage six months later, baby bump and all.

Tony, meanwhile, supported his wife’s ambitions while pursuing his dancing career. They navigated the choppy waters of Broadway together, celebrating triumphs and weathering disappointments as a team.

But the spotlight’s glare can be unforgiving. The constant pressure and nomadic life of theater took their toll. Chita’s career soared, earning her Tony Awards and a place among Broadway’s elite. Tony, while talented, struggled to find similar success.

The imbalance, coupled with the inherent complexities of juggling family and fame, eventually became a chasm they couldn’t bridge.

In 1966, their marriage ended in divorce. It was a bittersweet parting, a dance concluded but not forgotten. Both continued to be devoted parents to Lisa, who followed in her mother’s footsteps, building a successful career in theater.

Tony, though less visible in the public eye, remained a vital part of Chita’s narrative.

Chita Rivera Husband
Chita Rivera Husband

Who was Tony Mordente?

Tony Mordente was a talented dancer who graced the Broadway stage alongside Chita Rivera in the original 1957 production of West Side Story.

He played a member of the Jets, while Chita stole the show as the fiery Anita. Their on-stage chemistry translated to real life, leading to their marriage in December 1957.

How did their relationship impact Chita’s career?

Chita’s pregnancy with their daughter, Lisa, just months after the “West Side Story” premiere threatened to derail the London production.

But Tony’s unwavering support and Chita’s fierce dedication allowed her to return to the stage six months later, captivating audiences even with a baby bump.

This unwavering commitment cemented Chita’s place as a rising star, showcasing her incredible talent and work ethic.



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