Interview with Summer: The Donna Summer Musical star LaChanze

LaChanze

Tony Award winner LaChanze has always worked hard for the money and can now be found singing those very words eight shows a week at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on Broadway! In the crowd-pleasing favorite Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, LaChanze steps into the shoes of the legendary 'Queen of Disco' to tell the story of her life - its trials and tribulations and all its dance floor-filling hits - in just 90 minutes. As 'Diva Donna' she balances the dual roles of breaking the fourth wall as Narrator and portraying Donna in her later years, with Tony Award nominee Ariana DeBose (as 'Disco Donna') and Storm Lever (as 'Duckling Donna') playing younger versions of Ms. Summer. (Be sure to check out our interview with LaChanze's co-stars here).

From "I Feel Love" and "Love to Love You Baby" to "MacArthur Park" and finally, "Last Dance," LaChanze is in fine voice and embodies not just the backbone, but the beating of heart of the Broadway premiere production, deservedly picking up her third Tony Award nomination.

But, of course, Summer isn't the talented Broadway performer's first time at the rodeo. She first graced the Great White Way in the 1986 premiere of Uptown...It's Hot! and the 1987 revival of Dreamgirls and found fame when she was cast as leading lady Ti Moune in the Broadway premiere of Once on This Island in 1990, earning her first Tony Award nomination. Since then, she has appeared in the 1995 revival of Company, the 1998 premiere of Ragtime and won her Tony Award in 2006 for her performance as Celie in the Broadway premiere of The Color Purple. She was last seen on the Broadway stage opposite Idina Menzel in the 2014 premiere of If/Then.    

We recently caught up with LaChanze to talk about Summer and how the interaction with Broadway has changed over the last twenty years...


LaChanze on the Red Carpet of the 2018 Tony Awards
(Photo by Tom Millward)

Summer: The Donna Summer Musical has given you your third Awards Season experience on Broadway, after Once on This Island and The Color Purple. How would you compare those experiences?

Well, Awards season is great, fantastic. It’s the only time of the year that we’re fortunate enough to have such an experience. I try to just enjoy it and not go blindly from one thing to the next. I try to take my time and appreciate it. It’s wonderful and nowadays it’s gotten a lot more involved because of social media. When I was nominated back in the early ‘90s for Once on This Island, there wasn’t any social media. As my career continued to grow throughout the years, we were connecting but we weren’t as involved as we are right now with social media. It feels like its exploding in terms of what is required and in terms of how many people are interested in what we’re doing. The world is a lot smaller now. Now, I have fans in Australia that are congratulating me on my Tony and Drama Desk Award nominations, which is incredible!

That’s a lovely thing because a lot of people just can’t afford to make a trip to Broadway, but can share in the moment now via social media.

Exactly! It’s an international experience now. It’s very exciting! And also - I have a bit more control now because of my own social media platform, where I can talk directly to my people. It’s a different experience now and I’m enjoying it.

And I’m sure you’re enjoying stepping into the shoes of Ms. Donna Summer every night at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre! I guess you’re nicely settled into the role now. What part of the show do you look forward to the most?

Hmmm I look forward to a scene later on in the show where I sing “Friends Unknown”. It’s a moment where Donna Summer, in her life, she said something that upset a lot of her gay fans. It’s the one moment in the show where we address that issue and deal with it. We take a moment with the audience to explain it, so to speak. Hopefully it relieves some of the tension that was left from that moment. I enjoy the opportunity to live as Donna in that moment and express that.


LaChanze in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical
(Photo by Joan Marcus)

And If you had the opportunity to meet the real Donna Summer now and there was one thing you could say to her, what would it be?

Thank you! The first thing I would say is: “Thank you for all that you’ve done – for having the stamina and the strength and the fortitude and the commitment to share your gift with the world and be so receptive. Thank you for leaving this legacy for someone like me to step into your shoes and try to live up to who you were.” I would just say “Thank you!”


LaChanze in Interview
(Photo by Austin Yang)

Summer: The Donna Sumer Musical Tickets are on sale now for performances through to April 7, 2019.