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.


    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 soon moved on to Broadway where LaChanze began her professional career in the theater.

    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. On September 6, 2002, she sang the National Anthem at a joint meeting of Congress in Federal Hall, the first meeting of Congress in New York since 1790. 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.


    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.

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

    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. She received a Drama Desk nomination, Actress (Musical), for her performance.

    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.

    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. LaChanze received an Obie Award for Performance for Dessa Rose.

    LaChanze appeared as "Celie" in the Broadway musical The Color Purple, from its opening in 2005 to November 2006.

    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.

    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.

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

    She returned to Broadway in 2014 as Kate in If/Then.


    • If/Then (2015 - 16), Kate, National Tour
    • If/Then (2014–15), Kate, Broadway
    • If/Then (2013), Kate, National Theatre, out-of-town tryouts
    • Handel's Messiah Rocks: A Joyful Noise (2012), National Tour
    • From the Mississipi Delta, regional
    • The Wiz (2009), Glinda, Encores!
    • Inked Baby (2009), off-Broadway
    • Spunk, regional
    • The Color Purple (2005-06), Celie, Broadway
    • Dessa Rose (2005), Dessa Rose, off-Broadway
    • Baby (musical) (2004), Pam, Papermill Playhouse
    • The Color Purple (2004), Celie, Alliance Theatre
    • Dessa Rose (2003), Dessa Rose, workshop
    • Once on This Island, Ti Moune (2002)
    • Funny Girl (2002), Fanny Brice, New York Actor's Benefit Fund Concert
    • The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (2000), Viveca, off-Broadway
    • Ragtime (1999-2000), Sarah (replacement), Broadway
    • Company (1995), Marta, Broadway revival
    • Once on This Island (1990-91), Ti Moune, Broadway
    • Once on This Island (1990), Ti Moune, off-Broadway
    • Dreamgirls (1987), Deena Jones u/s, Michelle Morris u/s, & Ensemble, Broadway revival
    • Uptown...It's Hot! (1986), Ensemble, Broadway debut
    • Uptown... It's Hot!, (1985), Tap Dancer, Tropicana Hotel


    Sources: The New York Times; TCM

    • The Cosby Show (1988-1989), Sylvia, 2 episodes (TV)
    • My New Gun (1989), Kelly Jane
    • Leap of Faith, Georgette (1992)
    • For Love or Money (1993), Nora
    • The Cosby Mysteries (1994), Dr. Weeks, 2 episodes (TV)
    • New York Undercover (1996), Mariah Barton, 1 episode (TV)
    • Total Security (1997), Wanda Robitaille, 1 episode (TV)
    • David Searching, God Truth, (1997)
    • Hercules, Terpsichore (1997)
    • Hercules: The Animated Series, (1998), Terpsichore, 11 episodes (TV)
    • Sex and the City (1999), Hostess, 1 episode (TV)
    • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2000), Ms. Pivik, 1 episode (TV)
    • Heartbreak Hospital, Lisa (2002)
    • Lucy, (2003), Harriett (TV film)
    • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (2008), Amber, 1 episode (TV)
    • Handel's Messiah Rocks (2009), Singer
    • Breaking Upwards, Maggie, (2009)
    • One Life to Live, (2011), Yvonne Moreau, 3 episodes (TV)
    • The Help, Rachel, (2011)
    • Side Effects, Wards Islands Desk Nurse, (2013)
    • Crime, 2016 (TV)


    • 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



    • Little Diva, picture book, 2010

    Awards and nominations

    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 Best Featured Actress in a Musical Nominated
    2001 Drama Desk Award Best Actress in a Musical The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin Nominated
    2005 Drama Desk Award Best Actress in a Musical 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


    External links