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15 Minutes with LaChanze

February 26th, 2017 Comments off
LaChanze (Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

LaChanze (Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

One of Broadway’s biggest voices will be rolling into the Highline Ballroom on Monday, February 27, but don’t expect show tunes. LaChanze will be celebrating the launch of her new EP, Feeling Good.

The inspiration came from a cabaret set that the Tony Award-winning actress (The Color Purple) has been performing, coupled with work on her memoir. Together, she felt there were stories to tell that would showcase the music with key moments of her life.

LaChanze (Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

LaChanze (Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

“All of the moments are very specific — from my childhood through adolescence, adulthood and midlife,” says the actress, who, after several ensemble roles on Broadway, captured the hearts of audiences and critics alike in Once on This Island. The show, directed by Tamara Tunie, also touches upon some of the challenges she’s faced and the people who were influential in getting her back into her life after a personal tragedy.

One of LaChanze favorite moments, which she describes as “pure joy,” is from a specific moment from her childhood, expressed through Dianne Reeves’ radiant song, “Nine.” The multi-talented artist also showcases her own songwriting skills with “You’re Free.”

LaChanze is thrilled to be back at the Hammerstein Ballroom, where she played a Valentine’s Day concert in 2009 and fell in love with the space. In the heart of Chelsea and tucked under the historic High Line elevated park, the venue’s size sits comfortable between a cabaret and concert venue.

“The stage size is huge and equipped with terrific lighting. I love the venue. It’s open, expansive and easily transformed,” says LaChanze of the artistic hub that has welcomed such artists as Stevie Wonder, Lady Gaga, Carlos Santana and more.

LaChanze’s impetus to produce the concert and tour the show later this year (visit www.mslachanze.com for future dates) is multi-faceted. Creatively, it is a celebration of her professional and personal life through song, but it is also an opportunity to stay engaged and relevant in a notoriously fickle industry.

LaChanze (Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

LaChanze (Dirty Sugar Photography via The Broadway Blog.)

“For women in general, and not just women of color, when you become a certain age opportunities narrow. We’re viewed differently than men,” observes LaChanze. “Men have full careers in film and television. Women are often relegated to specific roles — the mom or the girlfriend. This happens across the board and even more for African American women.”

“One of the reasons I’m doing this show is because I don’t want to sit around and wait for the phone to ring,” she continues. “And we’re not a monolith. It’s a wide net that’s cast for a few roles, so I’m telling my own story.” LaChanze brought on director Tamara Tunie

In spite of the challenges, LaChanze continues to be in demand and has been working in television, film and voiceover. Broadway audiences will have to wait until at least 2018 for her return to the Great White Way until her daughter graduates from high school before the seasoned actress is ready to commit again to eight shows a week.

But for now, we’re feeling good knowing that LaChanze

LaChanze – “Feeling Good”
Highline Ballroom
431 West 16th Street
February 27
Doors open at 6 p.m.
Showtime 8 p.m.

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo

 

Interview: LaChanze’s “Love Hangover”

December 17th, 2013 Comments off

 Contributor Jim Gladstone chats with Tony winner LaChanze.

LaChanze appears at Feinstein's at the Nikko Dec. 20 and 21 and returns to Broadway this spring in "If/Then."

LaChanze appears at Feinstein’s at the Nikko Dec. 20 and 21 and returns to Broadway this spring in “If/Then.”

“I Hear A Symphony,” is one of the dozen or so Diana Ross songs that singer-actress LaChanze reinterprets in Love Hangover, her cabaret show, coming to Feinstein’s at the Nikko in San Francisco December 20 and 21.

It nods to both LaChanze’s past as “a little brown girl, snapping my fingers and swinging my hips to Diana Ross records on the radio” and a future in which she hopes to expand on her musical theater career—she won the 2006 Tony Award for Best Performance by a leading actress in a musical for the role of Celie in The Color Purple—by performing as a concert artist, something fellow stage stars Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel have done with great success in recent years. (LaChanze will star with Menzel in Broadway’s 2014 If/Then by Tom Kitt and Bryan Yorkey [Next to Normal]).

“I’d love to do some of this material backed by a full orchestra,” says LaChanze, of her cabaret show’s dramatically rearranged Ross hits. “I’ve done a couple other cabaret acts—Broadway tunes, a Great American Songbook set. I’m building up material to work into concerts.”

Ironically, while Diana Ross herself customarily plays large venues (She played the nearly 3,000-seat Golden Gate Theater in San Francisco in August), the coy coos and plaintive sighs of many Ross hits are probably better suited to the intimate scale of cabaret.

“I really like the cabaret setting,” says LaChanze, “for the storytelling aspect and for the opportunity to take liberties with the ways the songs are usually sung. I don’t want anyone to think they’re coming to see me do an imitation of Diana Ross or tell the story of her career. I sing very differently, and the stories I tell in this show are about the significant moments that Diana Ross’ music has intersected with my life; the times and the feelings that each song reminds me of.”

Asked about her act’s origins, LaChanze recounts noodling with an original thought of paying alliterative tribute to three icons: Diana Ross, Diane Schuur, and Dinah Washington. “It didn’t end up pulling together that well, and in researching Diana Ross’ songs, and listening to more them carefully, I realized that a lot of the lyrics hadn’t stuck with me the way the music had. I found myself connecting with so many of them. She recorded these songs across five decades that that pretty much coincided with the decades of my life.”

LaChanze, who caught the theater bug as a child, now has two daughters of her own, ages 12 and 13, who she says are Broadway and Beyonce buffs. “In popular music,” she says, Beyonce is about the only performer today who is iconic in the way that Michael Jackson or Diana Ross was when I was a kid.”

As to making musical theater appeal to a new generation of fans (whose Mom isn’t a leading lady), LaChanze says “That’s why I’m so excited about If/Then.  It’s totally contemporary in its musical styles and in its storytelling.  When we did it in DC there were always teenagers crowding the stage door after the show.  They may come to see it because of Idina or me or Tony [Anthony Rapp, of Rent fame], but they really get the way this show works  It happens in two parallel universes at the same time and some adults have trouble following it. The biggest audience for this show is going to be from 15 to 40, which is what Broadway needs.”

If/Then begins previews at the Richard Rodgers theater on March 5.

 LaChanze and company in “The Color Purple.”

A “Prince”-ly Cast, A “Mormon” Giveaway & More Theater News

March 22nd, 2012 Comments off

Justin Chambers, Chandra Wilson, James Pickens, Jr, Sara Ramirez and Kevin McKiddat "Grey's Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show". Photo by Scott Appel.

Our casting cup runneth over this week with theater news featuring big doings from big casts:

  • The blockbuster gang at The Book of Mormon is ignoring their Momma’s advice and giving it away for free again. To celebrate the show’s first year anniversary, the show will offer its second Free Fan Performance on June 6 at 2pm. To be eligible for a seat, just sign up for one of their nightly ticket lotteries through Sunday, May 20 and hope your name is picked.
  • The gals of Steel Magnolias sure do love a makeover, so it’s no surprise that the southern fried, beauty parlor chestnut is getting remade as a Lifetime movie. The not-so-French twist this time is that it has been reset (and blowdried?) in Louisiana and features a who’s who of African-American screen stars including Queen Latifah (playing the Sally Field role), Alfre Woodard (taking over for Shirley MacLaine) and Phylicia Rashad (sitting in Olympia Dukakis’ chair).
  • The day someone performs the epic flop musical Via Galactica is the day someone will revive Carrie off-Broadway. What is that you say? Really? Well, it seems pigs are flying all over town because that infamous 70’s sci-fi tuner with a score by Galt MacDermot (Hair) is getting a concert reboot March 23-25 at the Kraine Theater in NYC. I don’t know anything about the company presenting this new Via Galactica but I do know it’s a benefit for the Embrace Kids Foundation  and features an updated script by Erik Ludwig. Tickets are $15 and can be reserved by writing vgreservations@gmail.com.
  • If you were in LA this past weekend, I hope you caught Grey’s Anatomy: The Songs Beneath the Show, a benefit for the Actors Fund featuring the cast of the hit drama showing off their pipes–instead of surgically removing someone else’s. Watch a clip of the fabulous Tony-winning Sara Ramirez after the jump and you’ll want to plead for her to come back to Broadway. Stat!

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