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The Seth Concert Series: LaChanze | Review

LaChanzeThere’s a cheery disposition about LaChanze (born Rhonda LaChanze Sapp, but always known simply as LaChanze) that comes through even when she’s singing something like ‘I Don’t Know How To Love Him’ from Jesus Christ Superstar, a tune that, as the title suggests, usually denotes uncertainty in the character of Mary Magdalene. Joined for a few songs by her daughter Celia Rose Gooding, herself a Broadway actor with a Tony Award nomination, the riffs and harmonies in ‘The Skate’ from the slightly cumbersomely titled Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin were a particular highlight in this concert.

The conversation was occasionally steered by host and musical director Seth Rudetsky to explore whether LaChanze considered herself a trailblazer. For instance, in the Broadway production of The Color Purple, she played the central character, Celie, a black lesbian, a still unusual role in musical theatre, and back in 1995 she was in the Broadway revival of the Stephen Sondheim musical Company. For LaChanze, however, these were simply roles in productions she was very interested in playing, and therefore auditioned for, and thankfully secured.

As ever with online concerts, it’s a different experience to the usual in-person performance, with actors not receiving any audible applause. LaChanze took it all in her stride and proved very open indeed about what went on during audition processes, backstage, on stage, and so on. There was the mishap with a wig that came right off on stage early on in her career, before she mastered the art of pinning wigs down (or rather, as she candidly admitted, having someone do that for her), and a prop that she brought out with her in the ‘wrong’ scene. When it happened a second time at a later performance, she quietly put it back, but her co-star was having none of it, bringing it back out from the wings and improvising dialogue around it. The show’s director was distinctly unimpressed.

Only the opening tune, ‘Glitter in the Air’, a song performed and co-written by popular music artist Pink, came from outside musical theatre. The rest of the concert’s selection of songs was nonetheless broad, but if ‘It’s All Over’ from Dreamgirls was fast-paced (and it was, with LaChanze and Rudetsky performing several characters between them all in one song), ‘Another Hundred People’ from Company was even brisker.

There was an incredibly touching moment when LaChanze spoke about her interactions with Alice Walker, who wrote the novel on which the musical The Color Purple is based. I hadn’t appreciated previously that Ragtime was, for the actors in the show, something that required a touch of silliness off-stage in order to perform such a hard-hitting and serious show. And just as things couldn’t get any more eclectic, there was also a musical number from a more recent Broadway show about Donna Summer that LaChanze starred in. A pleasant and highly entertaining ninety minutes.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

LaChanze is an award-winning actress who brings an exhilarating and electrifying presence to any stage she touches. Blessed with a powerful mezzo-soprano singing voice and a commanding presence, she consistently receives high praises from fans, peers and the industry at-large.

Armed with the gift for dramatic storytelling, a sultry vocal dexterity and for bringing complex female heroines to life, audiences sit up and take notice of the actress whether in a hot Broadway production, television show, film or on concert stages. Most recently, she starred in playwright Jack Thorne’s A Christmas Carol as the Ghost of Christmas Present/Mrs. Fezziwig. Prior, she originated the role of August in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage’s A Secret Life of Bees for which she landed an AUDELCO Award for Leading Actress in a Musical. She gave a spellbinding performance in the high voltage Broadway’s Summer The Donna Summer Musical. In creating the nostalgia of Donna Summer, she landed nominations for the 2018 Tony Award nomination for Leading Actress in a Musical, 2018 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical and 2018 Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance Award.

LaChanze stepped onto stage 28 Broadway seasons ago, giving the original production of Once On This Island its beating and unforgettable heart, creating the role of lovelorn peasant girl Ti Moune. She won her first Tony Award for giving a voice to Celie, the unlikely heroine of Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, the musical’s original staging. Shortly after, she nabbed an Emmy Award for her riveting performance in the award-winning PBS special Handel’s Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise.

Mark Cortale Presents

Sunday, October 25th at 8PM EST
Monday, October 26th at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 1st at 8PM EST
Monday, November 2nd at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 8th at 8PM EST
Monday, November 9th at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 15th at 8PM EST
Monday, November 16th at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 22nd at 8PM EST
Monday, November 23rd at 3PM EST

Sunday, November 29th at 8PM EST
Monday, November 30th at 3PM EST
All tickets available at thesethconcertseries.com

If/Then: A New Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording) by Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, J (2014-06-03) by Idina Menzel, LaChanze, Anthony Rapp, James Snyder, Jerry Dixon, Jenn Colella, J (2014-06-03).


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