Timotha Lanae has overseas hits on top of stage success
It is the mid-1970s in Reno, and a trio of disco singers — Tina, Delores and Michelle — are performing in a nightclub. So sets the stage for Sister Act the Musical playing at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre beginning October 30.
While talking with the MSR, Timotha Lanae, who plays the role of Tina, discusses her connection with Chanhassen, her dual roles in the musical, and her burgeoning musical career.
Born and raised in North Minneapolis, Lanae says she’s always had a love for performance: “I just have always had a big imagination. So, as a child I was always calling on my sister, my cousins, my god sisters, my friends — ‘Let’s put on a show. Let’s make up the songs, and let’s have a singing group or a dance.’ So it’s just always been something that I loved to do, and it’s just in my blood.”
While acting in high school, she played the role of Anita in West Side Story. Years later, a friend who knew of her love for the play suggested she audition for the musical at Chanhassen Theatre, advice that led to a longtime connection with the dinner theater.
Over the past 10-plus years she’s appeared in A Musical Journey of Women, Singin’ in the Rain, Swing!, West Side Story and Hello, Dolly among others. “I’ve done now about eight shows out there,” says Lanae. “It’s like a family… I love working out here at Chanhassen.”
In June 2013, the Guthrie Theater celebrated their 50th Anniversary. Whoopi Goldberg was among their invited special guests. During the event, Lanae along with others sang backup during a Goldberg performance.
“I got to see her, meet her… When you think of Sister Act, to me, I think of Whoopi Goldberg. I never, would have known, two years later, that I’d be doing this play or studying that role that she originated.”
Besides the role of Tina, Lanae is also understudy for the main character — Deloris Wilson, the singer, and Sister Mary Clarence, the nun. “I’m learning one role that I’ll play every evening, and then at the same time I’m learning the role of the lead character Delores, which is a massive role — it’s so much.”
Lanae, who has been an understudy many times, says it calls for being able to balance her time between the role she plays each night and being ready to go on at a moment’s notice as the lead character. “Sometimes when you are an understudy, you may never have to go on, but actually for this show I know for sure that I am going on the last two weeks of the run,” when Regina Marie Williams, who plays the leading role, will be leaving for another engagement during the last two weeks of February.
“So that kind of makes it nice,” continues Lanae, “where at least you know it’s not going to be all in vain. You know for sure you’re going on for a nice amount time.”
When Lanae is not acting on stage, she says she is fortunate to be able to focus on her musical career as a singer, songwriter and producer. “I’ve been blessed to be able to pursue music full time for a number of years now.” She has released two albums: Rewind, last year, which reached number two on the UK Soul Charts, and Red, which went to number one on the UK Soul Charts. She most recently released a single, “8 Days Til Spring,” on a compilation album called The So Soulful Collection Vol 2.
“I love collaborating with talented people,” says Lanae of her musical career. “With that song, ‘8 Days Til Spring,’ I worked with two talented musicians here in town — Reid Kennedy and Cameron Kinghorn. We wrote that song and produced it together. And that was a lot of fun.”
Lanae says inspiration for the song came while driving down 94 West and seeing a digital billboard. “I happened to look up and it said ‘eight days ’til spring,’ because it was March 15, and I was like… that kind of goes with this beat. It’s kind of funny how inspiration for songs comes sometimes.”
One week before rehearsals began for Sister Act, Lanae and her band celebrated her musical success with a performance at Chanhassen’s Fireside Theater. As for the upcoming show, Sister Act the Musical, “It’s really shaping up to be a really fun show. I’m really excited about it.”
Sister Act the Musical will be playing on the from October 30, 2015 through February 27, 2016.
To hear Timotha Lanae’s music, go to TimothaLanae.com.
Vickie Evans-Nash welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vickie Evans-Nash is a contributing writer and former editor in chief at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.