Ray Rahman
April 26, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

It’s one thing to act like Diana Ross. It’s quite another to play (and sing as!) the Supremes legend in Broadway’s new jukebox-driven hit Motown the Musical — especially when the show’s writer-producer is label founder and former Ross flame Berry Gordy. But Valisia LeKae, a vet of phenoms like The Book of Mormon, has earned raves for her uncanny performance of hits like ”Where Did Our Love Go” and ”Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” It helps that the Memphis native has admired Ross since childhood. ”In junior high, I did a Ross medley at the Mid-South Fair, with two white girls as my Supremes,” says LeKae. ”If there’s one thing besides my spirituality that’s connected throughout my life, it’s her.”

When she finally met Ross on the show’s April 14 opening night, though, LeKae admits she tuned out for a moment. ”I can’t remember anything she said to me,” she says. ”All I remember thinking is ‘Wow, I’m not as short as I thought I was!’ Because when you watch her on tape, she’s such a towering figure, you know?” We do.

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