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Rhonda LaChanze Sapp, known professionally as LaChanze (/ləʃɑnz/; born December 16, 1961) is an American actress, singer, and dancer. She won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical in 2006 for her role in The Color Purple.[1][2]

LaChanze, 2006 cropped.jpg
LaChanze in 2006
Rhonda LaChanze Sapp

(1961-12-16) December 16, 1961 (age 57)
Other namesLaChanze Sapp, La Chanze Sapp-Gooding, R. Lachanze Sapp
OccupationActress, singer, dancer
Years active1988–present
Calvin J. Gooding
(m. 1998; died 2001)

Derek Fordjour
(m. 2005; div. 2014)


Born in St. Augustine, Florida, to parents Walter and Rosalie Sapp, her stage name "LaChanze" (Creole: the charmed one), is taken from her grandmother. After moving to Connecticut, her childhood love of singing and dancing caused her mother to enroll her in the Bowen Peters Cultural Arts Center in New Haven. It is there that she first discovered her love for performing. At Warren Harding High School in Bridgeport, LaChanze made her debut as Lola in the school production of Damn Yankees.

Living so close to New York City gave LaChanze access to the world of theater. The first theatrical production she ever saw was the musical Chicago. Graciela Daniele was cast in the production and many years later Daniele had a lasting impact on LaChanze's professional development as a performer. While she greatly enjoyed the dance world, LaChanze often felt limited and had the frequent urge to stop dancing and belt out a dramatic tune or to erupt into an intense monologue.

After high school, LaChanze studied Drama at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland, before transferring to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she studied Theater and Dance. Her first summer job was as a tap dancer in the ensemble of Uptown... It's Hot! at the Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The show opened on Broadway in January 1986, where LaChanze began her professional career in the theater.[3]

While LaChanze was eight months pregnant with her second child, her husband, securities trader Calvin Gooding, was killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He was working at Cantor Fitzgerald in Tower One of the World Trade Center.[4] On September 6, 2002, she sang the National Anthem at a joint meeting of Congress in Federal Hall National Memorial, the first meeting of Congress in New York since 1790.[5][6] She later sang "Amazing Grace" at the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum on May 15, 2014, dedicating her performance to her late husband.

LaChanze remarried in 2005 to Derek Fordjour, and later divorced him in 2014. The divorce was finalized on March 27, 2014 in Westchester County.[7]


LaChanze played the role of "Ti Moune" in the Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty musical Once on This Island in 1990 and received nominations for the Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical and Drama Desk Award as Outstanding Actress in a Musical.[8][9]

She was a replacement "Sarah" in the Ahrens and Flaherty and Terrence McNally Broadway musical Ragtime, starting in December 1998.[10]

She played the role of "Viveca" in the Playwrights Horizons Off-Broadway production of the musical The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, which opened in June 2000.[11] She received a Drama Desk nomination, Actress (Musical), for her performance.[12]

LaChanze participated in an Actors Fund of America benefit concert of Funny Girl, with many performers portraying the character of "Fanny Brice", in September 2002.[13]

In 2005 she played a runaway slave in the Ahrens and Flaherty musical Dessa Rose. The musical opened Off-Broadway at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center in March 2005.[14] LaChanze received an Obie Award for Performance for Dessa Rose.[15][16]

LaChanze appeared as "Celie" in the Broadway musical The Color Purple, from its opening in 2005 to November 2006.[17][18] She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for this performance.

In September 2008 she participated in the Boston Pops concert, Handel's Messiah Rocks at Emerson College. The performance was filmed by Public Broadcasting Service.[19]

She was in the Off-Broadway production of Inked Baby, written by Christina Anderson, which opened in March 2009 at Playwrights Horizons Peter Jay Sharp Theater.[20]

In June and July 2009, she played the role of "Glinda" in the City Center Encores! staged Summer Stars concert production of The Wiz.[21]

She was in the Broadway production of If/Then in 2014, starring as Kate.

She is currently in Summer: The Donna Summer Musical on Broadway, playing Diva Donna/Mary Gaines.


Year Title Role Location Notes
1985 Uptown... It's Hot! Tap Dancer Tropicana Hotel
1986 Broadway Broadway debut
1987 Dreamgirls Ensemble Broadway (u/s Deena Jones, Michelle Morris)
1990 Once On This Island Ti Moune Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons
1990–91 Broadway
1995 Out of This World Chloe New York City Center Encores!
Company Marta Broadway
1996 Comfortable Shoes Performer Paper Mill Playhouse
1997 Ragtime Sarah Los Angeles
1999 The Vagina Monologues Performer Off-Broadway
1999–2000 Ragtime Sarah Broadway Replacement
2000 The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin Viveca Off-Broadway Playwrights Horizons
2002 Funny Girl Fanny Brice New York New York Actor's Benefit Fund Concert
Once On This Island Ti Moune Broadway reunion concert
2004 The Color Purple Celie Alliance Theatre Out-of-town tryout
Baby Pam Paper Mill Playhouse
2005 Dessa Rose Dessa Rose Off-Broadway
2005–06 The Color Purple Celie Broadway
N/A Spunk Performer Regional
2009 Inked Baby Performer Off-Broadway
The Wiz Glinda New York City Center Encores!
N/A From the Mississippi Delta Performer Regional
2012 Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise Performer National tour
2013 If/Then Kate National Theatre (Washington, D.C.) Out-of-town tryout
2014–15 Broadway
2015–16 National tour
2016 Cabin in the Sky Wanda New York City Center Encores!
2017 Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Diva Donna/Mary Gaines La Jolla Playhouse Out-of-town tryout
2018 Broadway


Sources: The New York Times;[22] TCM[23]


  • Once On This Island (Original Broadway Cast Recording), 1990
  • Disney's Princess Favorites, featured artist, 2002
  • Dessa Rose (off-Broadway Cast Recording), 2005
  • The Color Purple (Original Broadway Cast Recording), 2006
  • Disney Collection 1, featured artist, 2006
  • The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (Studio Cast Recording), 2007
  • Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise, featured artist, 2009
  • Nice Fighting You: A 30th Anniversary Celebration Live at 54 Below, featured on four songs, 2014
  • If/Then (Original Broadway Cast Recording), 2014
  • Summer: The Donna Summer Musical (Original Broadway Cast Recording), 2018



  • Little Diva, picture book, 2010

Awards and nominationsEdit

Year Award Category Nominated Work Result
1991 Theatre World Award Outstanding Broadway debut Once On This Island Won
Tony Award Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated
2001 The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin Nominated
2005 Dessa Rose Nominated
Obie Award Performance Won
2006 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical The Color Purple Won Audience Award Favorite Actress in a Musical Won
Favorite Diva Performance Won
Favorite Onstage Pair (w/ Elisabeth Withers) Nominated
2010 Emmy Award Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence on Camera: Programming - Performer Handel's Messiah Rocks Won
2014 Audience Award Favorite Supporting Actress in a Musical If/Then Won
2018 Tony Award Best Actress in a Musical Summer: The Donna Summer Musical Nominated


  1. ^ "Anthony Rapp Will Join Tony Winners Idina Menzel and LaChanze in Broadway-Bound Musical If/Then" Archived 2013-08-04 at the Wayback Machine Playbill. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  2. ^ "LaChanze" Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  3. ^ Uptown...It's Hot, accessed March 19, 2016
  4. ^ Gordon, Meryl. "The Lives Left Behind" New York Magazine, accessed March 19, 2016
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Lehrer, Sari. "Weddings" New York Magazine, Summer 2006, retrieved August 29, 2013
  7. ^ Gioia, Michael. "My If/Then Moment": LaChanze Recounts the Divine Intervention Leading Her to the 9/11 Memorial" June 18, 2014
  8. ^ "LaChanze Career", accessed August 29, 2013
  9. ^ Listing, see Awards Internet Broadway Database, accessed August 29, 2013
  10. ^ Lefkowitz, David and Viagas, Robert and Ehren, Christine. "Bway's 'Ragtime' To Get All-New Leads, Incl. Rubinstein, Alton White & LaChanze" Archived 2012-04-03 at the Wayback Machine, December 18, 1998
  11. ^ Listing, accessed August 30, 2013
  12. ^ Jones, Kenneth and Simonson, Robert. 2001 "Drama Desk Winners Include 'Producers', 'Proof' and 'Mnemonic' " Archived 2012-10-20 at the Wayback Machine, May 20, 2001
  13. ^ Simonson, Robert. More Fannys: LaChanze, Kayden, Murney Join Funny Girl Concert" Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine, September 17, 2002
  14. ^ Simonson, Robert. "LaChanze and Rachel York Begin Previews in 'Dessa Rose' at Mitzi Newhouse, Feb. 17" Archived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine February 17, 2005
  15. ^ "Search 2005", accessed August 29, 2013
  16. ^ Simonson, Robert. "Shanley, Hughes, Culkin, Marvel, O'Connell Among 2005 Obie Winners" Archived 2013-12-12 at the Wayback Machine, May 16, 2005
  17. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "LaChanze Confirmed as Leading Lady of 'Color Purple' Musical; Broadway Cast Announced", September 7, 2005
  18. ^ Hernandez, Ernio. "Tony Winner LaChanze to End Her Run in Broadway's 'The Color Purple' Nov. 5", October 18, 2006
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew. PBS to Film LaChanze, Spencer and Boston Pops in Handel's Messiah Rocks" Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine, September 5, 2008
  20. ^ Jones, Kenneth. " 'Inked Baby', Starring LaChanze, Opens March 23 in NYC" Archived 2013-10-29 at the Wayback Machine, March 23, 2009
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew and Hetrick, Adam."Jones, LaChanze, Arnold, Lewis, Henry and More Will Join Ashanti in The Wiz", May 7, 2009
  22. ^ Filmography The New York Times, accessed August 29, 2013
  23. ^ Filmography, accessed August 29, 2013

External linksEdit