Living La Vida LaChanze: Tony and Emmy Winner Talks Broadway Return in If/Then

By Karu F. Daniels
21 Apr 2014

LaChanze and Idina Menzel
Photo by Joan Marcus

Her character Kate is a spunky lesbian who shows Menzel's Elizabeth the ropes of New York City while encouraging and supporting her decisions along the way — in both of the alternative existences of the storyline. It's not LaChanze's first time at the same-gender-loving rodeo, either. Her last big starring role on The Great White Way was in The Color Purple, which, unlike the Steven Spielberg-directed cinematic epic, delved more closer to the actual Alice Walker novel and its lesbian love story.

"You know it's so funny because people ask me the [lesbian] question a lot and I'm often surprised by it because that is not what I'm focusing on in terms of the character," she chuckled. "Personally, I am not a lesbian. So I don't have that to pull from if you know what I mean. I don't really identify with what it must feel like to live as a lesbian in the world. The only thing I can relate to is being in love with someone."

"I have loved fiercely in my life — a few times," she continued. "So that's all I can pull from. And knowing that it's this woman who loves this woman madly, that is what I can use as a source. You know as an actor, you go in your own personal life and pull from your personal life so that's what I do. But I don't know. Am I playing it well?" she quipped. "Maybe I should've thought about it more deeper or more deeply but I just thought it's all love, love of woman, love of man so just love this woman. That's how I thought of it. I just don't have any issues with that fact that I'm playing a lesbian."

Ironically, Menzel also played a lesbian in her breakout role as Maureen Johnson in the theatrical and movie versions of Rent.

But the two Tony Award winners (who are both doing their first Broadway show after winning the coveted statuette) didn't just bond over those particular career parallels; LaChanze said they also share single motherhood. "We talk about that all the time. She talks a lot to me about being concerned about being the lead and having a five-year -old at home and what's that like. And that's where I was when I was dong The Color Purple. My daughters were five and three. And it's very difficult because your attention can be just so torn."

"Naturally you want to be the best mom you can but then also you want to be the best performer you can," she explained. "So we spend a lot of time talking about that balance and how to give ourselves some breaks sometimes because the mommy guilt can really be kind of stressful. So I help her sometimes understanding that it's like the balancing act and knowing that it's okay now. It's not the quantity of the time, it's the quality."

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