LaChanze, the Tony Award-winning star of The Color Purple, If/Then, Once on This Island, and more, will introduce New York to an electric new concert, Feeling Good, at The Highline Ballroom February 27 in anticipation of a national concert tour. She will also release the EP Feeling Good, featuring musical highlights of the new concert of the same name, February 24. Here, the singing actor, who is working on a memoir for Scholastic, shares the Broadway performances that most affected her as part of the audience.
Derrick Baskin in The Little Mermaid
The Little Mermaid is my favorite of the Disney animated features. And, I could not wait to see it on Broadway. The whole time I was watching the show I was thinking, “Who is that?” I’m not supposed to like Jetsam—he’s one of the bad guys! But his voice and movements were so spot on as Jetsam, this cunning eel henchman to the water witch Ursula, that I wanted to see more of him. I was a kid all over again. Even now when I see his work, I still see Jetsam in him. I find myself controlling the urge to slither up next to him in hopes that he might join me in full Jetsam style. But that’s just me, and I’ve been following his career ever since.
I went to see Kinky Boots to see my friend Billy Porter in his groundbreaking performance. But while backstage I was hoping for a chance to meet this young, dynamic performer Annaleigh Ashford. Her comic timing was brilliant. And she is obviously a triple threat. I was laughing out loud and longer than anyone seated around me whenever she was on stage. The people near me must have thought I was high or drunk because I laughed and snorted so hard I had cramps. Even her subtle moments had me laughing. She has a fan in me for life.
Saycon Sengbloh in Fela!
I have known Saycon since she was the original Nettie in the Atlanta pre-Broadway production of The Color Purple, and I have known of her raw brilliance ever since then. But when I saw her transform herself into Sandra Isadore, the wife of Fela, I was blown away. Saycon gave this character so much dimension and grace that I felt as if I knew her. She would walk on the stage with such regality that it wasn’t hard to see why Fela fell for her. And her voice is something ancient and otherworldly. Her work in that show transported me to the 70’s and had me wishing the show had a third act. I will watch any and everything she does.
One of the greatest things about the theatre is how it can completely change the way you see the world around you. Dear Evan Hansen did this for me. It is my favorite show this season (I’m their No. 1 fan) and most likely of all time. From the first three lines out of Ben Platt's mouth I felt, joy, excitement, grateful, parental concern, and even heartbreak. His portrayal of Evan Hansen will go down in the history books as one of the most original and sensitive performances on Broadway to date. His comic timing is so quirky and offbeat that I couldn’t help but giggle even when I shouldn’t have. And his ability to belt clearly through heartbreaking sobs almost got me to my feet, but I was searching my purse for a tissue to wipe my own tears. I’ve seen this show twice already, and I might go back just to catch him one more time.
Michael Potts in Jitney
You know when you see a play and there is a character whom you know so well that you hate them and love them at the same time? That is Michael Potts’ portrayal of Turnbo in August Wilson’s Jitney. From the moment he struts on the stage, you can tell by his gate that he’s up to something, good and bad. His Turnbo is quick-witted and sharply intelligent. However, his mask of superiority is just thin enough to expose the complex vulnerability that brims at the surface of his heart. I found myself truly hating him for his cocky machismo and truly loving him for his cocky machismo. A skill that Michael delivers effortlessly.