Chita Rivera at the 2002 Tony Awards(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
Chita Rivera at the 2002 Tony Awards
(Photo: Michael Portantiere)
Broadway's Chita Rivera is one of five artists set to receive lifetime achievement honors from the Kennedy Center this year. The other honorees are film star Elizabeth Taylor; musician, composer, and former Beatle Paul McCartney; Verizon spokesman and sometime actor James Earl Jones; and conductor James Levine.

Rivera, beloved as one of Broadway's finest dancer-singer-actresses, appeared in the original productions of such shows as West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie, Bajour, Chicago, Bring Back Birdie, Merlin, and The Rink. Regionally and on tour, she has starred in Can-Can, Anything Goes, and many other musicals. Rivera was last seen on Broadway in Kiss of the Spider Woman and she will be back soon in a revival of Nine.

Jones' Broadway credits include The Great White Hope, Of Mice and Men, The Iceman Cometh, Othello, and Fences; he was considered one of the finest actors of his generation but has largely abandoned that career in recent years and is primarily known today for hawking Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic) and for having provided the voice of Darth Vader for the first three Star Wars films. Taylor, who became a film star at a tender age, made a belated Broadway debut in a 1981 revival of The Little Foxes and subsequently co-starred opposite her ex-husband Richard Burton in a 1983 revival of Private Lives; both shows were presented by the Elizabeth Theatre Group, in which Taylor was partnered by producer Zev Bufman. Levine and McCartney have no professional connection to the theater, though many of the latter's songs were heard in Beatlemania, a Beatles tribute show that ran on Broadway in the late 1970s.

The 25th annual Kennedy Center Honors will be presented in a gala ceremony on December 8 and the event will be telecast by CBS later that month.