Ladies Night — Carole King, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin Take the Stage in a New Kind of Spotlight

By Karu F. Daniels
27 Nov 2013

Valisia LeKae
Valisia LeKae chats with Valisia LeKae, Jessie Mueller and NaTasha Yvette Williams about taking on the roles of iconic women on the Broadway stage.


Hearty renditions of pop music anthems and signature songs popularized by legendary chart-toppers won't just be heard on televised singing competitions, oldie radio stations or in karaoke halls anymore. They're being played all over stages this season — via musicals featuring the likenesses of some of the greatest ladies the music industry has ever known. offers a look at some of the women bringing the hit parade to the Great White Way.

Valisia LeKae as Diana Ross
Motown The Musical, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre

Although the Memphis native once starred as Deena in a regional production of Dreamgirls, taking on the role of the real Motown queen was different than the caricaturized composite many have associated with her in the theatre world. "Those two things don't compare," the 2013 Tony nominee shared. "I don't even remember how I played [Deena] but it's not like what happens on the stage when I do Miss Diana Ross." Handpicked by director Charles Randolph-Wright after her very first audition, the former Dollywood amusement park performer admits the role wasn't very difficult to capture. "They asked me if I was doing something with my voice because I sounded so much like her," she revealed. "Luckily the timbre is similar so I don't have to run too far to find that."

LeKae's dream of meeting her idol came true on opening night last spring. "I remember her running over to me and saying some things, but it was blurred because I was so enamored with her." Ross has seen the show on more than one occasion but they still have yet to have a tête-à-tête. The ambitious LeKae is optimistic that when they do, it should lead to much more. "If she ever decides to do her movie, then I'll get to have a sit-down with her because I would hope that she would allow me to bring her life to the big screen one day." LeKae's original plans to come to New York to be a singer didn't pan out, but there is a bright side. "I never became a recording artist but I do get to play one onstage eight shows a week."


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