Five Burning Questions with Tony Winner and If/Then Star LaChanze

Last updated August 27th, 2014 by Josh Ferri
Five Burning Questions with Tony Winner and If/Then Star La…

With an insanely powerful voice and an infectious smile, LaChanze put her stamp on some of Broadway’s most beloved musicals (Once on This Island, Ragtime, Dreamgirls, Company). In 2006, she won a Tony Award for her heartbreaking portrayal of Celie in The Color Purple, and now she is lighting up the stage as Kate—a kindergarten teacher who believes in love and fate—in the thrilling new musical If/Then. Below, BroadwayBox chats with LaChanze about the life lesson the show taught her, the sign she was taking home the Tony Award and what it means to be a mom in NYC.

1. People see If/Then and really think about their lives and question and examine; and I’m wondering, what has this musical or Kate, specifically, taught you about yourself?
Not to take things so seriously. [Laughs.] Actors can be somewhat on the dramatic side—things weigh a little bit heavier with us sometimes—and I think it’s just the nature that we study behavior for a living, so we are very sensitive—myself included. But what I have gleaned from doing this show every single night is that we don't control much, and once you make a decision you have to support it and get on that journey and embrace it; and that means being a little bit lighter in your life.

2. What’s the best part and the hardest part of being a mom in this city?
Explaining things that we see is the hardest. My children were both born in St. Vincent’s Hospital, and growing up, going in and out, seeing different things and explaining the homeless and behavior and just so many of the things we see. The best part is that living in New York is an education in itself. It's a diverse and culturally rich environment, and they learn a lot about art and sociology and nature. It’s almost like the same thing is the best thing and the worst thing in New York.

3. If I wanted to read a great book this weekend, what do you recommend?
For a weekend, I would have to say pick up Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It was last summer’s hot book but it’s still one of my favorites; it’s pretty incredible. And Before I Go to Sleep is also a good one.

4. Your If/Then character Kate so believes in signs. Looking back was there any sign that you were going to win the Tony for The Color Purple?
Interesting you say that. I had not thought about myself [winning] given all these women I admire and respect in my category [Sutton, Patti, Chita and Kelli O’Hara]. But when I was leaving the hotel I was getting dressed in for the ceremony, the first person who ever hired me in this business is who I saw. Maurice Hines gave me my very first professional job; I was a dancer, third girl from the left, at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City and the show ended up going to Broadway called Uptown…It’s Hot. And I saw Maurice Hines as I was leaving the hotel and that felt like a sign to me.

5. Your performance of “Amazing Grace” at the National September 11 Memorial Museum was so beautifully moving and it was shown everywhere on TV and the internet afterwards; have you ever gone back to watch it? What was that like?
I’ve seen it, but I haven’t gone back to watch it in terms of sitting down and watching myself—I’m my number one critic so I don't typically watch or listen to myself; I can’t just enjoy it. But yes, I did watch it again and it even moved me. It was an out of body experience; I wasn't focusing as much on performing as I was communicating with my now late husband [Calvin Gooding]. That’s what it was for me: a moment that he and I shared and a tribute to him.

See LaChanze showcase her Tony-winning talents in 'If/Then' at Broadway's Richard Rodgers Theatre.