Chita Rivera has played many roles in her 43-year career—including her Tony-winning turn this season in Broadway’s Best Musical, Kiss of the Spider Woman. But until July 18, Rivera, 60, had never been cast in a part as demanding as mother of the bride, clearly a role she’d like to play only once—with feeling.
The wedding was a Broadway production from the get-go. Chita’s only child, Lisa Mordente, 34, is the assistant choreographer of the hit musical Tommy, and her groom, Donnie Kehr, 29, sings “Pinball Wizard” in the show. “I was hoping for a September date since we’ve all been so busy,” says Chita. ” ‘But I said, just go for it.” With the father of the bride, Chita’s ex-husband, TV and film director Tony Mordente, footing half the bill, Chita booked Manhattan’s Holy Cross Cathedral for the ceremony and the nearby Supper Club for the 250-person reception.
Lisa and Donnie met cute in L.A. in March 1992: He was auditioning for a show that she was helping to choreograph. Chita met Donnie last August, at a showcase where Lisa was singing. “What I saw,” she says, “were two people in love.” Speaking as, well, a mother, she adds, “I hadn’t reached the point of panic, but I was approaching the feeling that I’d like to see her happily attached.”
After Lisa and Donnie flew to London last December to see Chita in Spider Woman, they gathered with friends and family to exchange Christmas gifts. Donnie’s present to Lisa came in a small box, oh, just the size for a ring. “This kid had the guts to ask Lisa to marry him in front of all of us,” Chita remembers. “He was so nervous he was purple, and Lisa had tears in her eyes.”
Since Chita remained in London through March, Lisa bought her wedding dress in Manhattan with her aunt Lola del Rivero, Chita’s sister. Chita, meanwhile, saw a pair of white satin Peter Fox boots in a London shop. “I thought, ‘These look like Lisa’s pretty little feet,’ so I faxed her a picture,’ ” recalls Chita. “Mom, you’re not going to believe this…” Lisa faxed back. She’d chosen the same boots.
When Chita learned the wedding colors were to be black and white, not the traditional pastels, she was nervous. “Mom doesn’t push anything on me, though,” says Lisa. “It’s her wedding,” adds Chita, who knows what really matters. “I cry easily at beauty and innocence,” she says. “To see the two of them! This is a dream.”