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Thursday, December 01, 2005

'Color Purple' Star Was a Philly Student
Co-producer Oprah Winfrey's so excited about today's opening of The Color Purple on Broadway, tonight she's on Letterman, a show she's avoided for years.

But nobody's more thrilled than the musical's leading actress, LaChanze, who went to Philly's own University of the Arts when she was still going by her given name, Rhonda Sapp. That's her at left, with Alice Walker, Pulitzer-winning author of the original novel.

And LaChanze isn't the only Philly connection to the show. Local legends Patti LaBelle and Jill Scott recorded the duet "What About Love?" for January release as a single.

The Color Purple is told through the eyes of LaChanze's character, Celie, "a timid young Southern woman who is raped by her father, gives birth to two children and suffers years of cruelty married to an abusive man," according to onlineseats.com. Celie and other character sing "What About Love?" in the first act.

See other songs performed on a recent Oprah show.

According to her LaChanze's Web site, she was born in St. Augustine, Fla., "to teenage parents from working class families." After they moved to Connecticut, she discovered her love for singing, dancing and acting. At the University of the Arts, she was a theatre/dance major. "One summer, I took a job that went to Broadway!" she recalls. "Sounds crazy, but I had a job tap-dancing in the ensemble of Uptown -- It's Hot! at the Tropicana hotel in Atlantic City. Shortly after, the cast was headed for Broadway. Once in New York, I saw a world of opportunity and never looked back. I had the bug."

Her stage and screen credits range from a Tony-nominated role in Once on This Island to appearances on Law & Order: SVU and Sex and the City, to parts in the films For Love or Money and Leap of Faith.

LaChanze, who lost her first husband on 9/11, recently remarried. She has two daughters. For more about her life and career, see a newspaper article as well as a Q&A she did for Broadway.com.


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