The Color Purple (musical)

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The Color Purple
Color purple poster.jpg
Original poster from The Broadway Theatre production, 2005
Music Brenda Russell
Allee Willis
Stephen Bray
Lyrics Brenda Russell
Allee Willis
Stephen Bray
Book Marsha Norman
Basis The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Productions 2005 Broadway
2007 Chicago
2007 1st US Tour
2010 2nd US Tour
2011 Vienna
2012 3rd US Tour
2013 Off-West End
2015 Broadway revival

The Color Purple is a Broadway musical based upon the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker. It features music and lyrics written by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, with a book by Marsha Norman. It ran on Broadway in 2005 and has been touring throughout the US. The Broadway production earned eleven 2006 Tony Awards nominations. The musical received an acclaimed Broadway revival in late 2015.


Workshop and world premiere (2004-2005)[edit]

The Color Purple was originally workshopped by the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, in the summer of 2004 following Scott Sanders' optioning the work from Alice Walker in 1999 and auditioning various creative team members. The September 9, 2004, world premiere of the musical was produced by the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta by special arrangement with Creative Battery and Scott Sanders Productions.

For the Atlanta run, La Chanze starred as Celie, Felicia P. Fields as Sofia, Saycon Sengbloh as Nettie, Adriane Lenox as Shug and Kingsley Leggs as Mister. Gary Griffin staged the work, with scenic design by John Lee Beatty, lighting by Brian MacDevitt, costumes by Paul Tazewell and sound by Jon Weston.[1][2]

Broadway (2005-2008)[edit]

The musical opened on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre on December 1, 2005. It was directed by Gary Griffin, produced by Scott Sanders, Quincy Jones and Oprah Winfrey, with choreography by Donald Byrd and musical direction by Linda Twine. The musical closed on February 24, 2008, after 30 previews and 910 regular performances. The Broadway production recouped its $11 million investment within its first year on Broadway, and has grossed over $103 million to date.[3]

The original Broadway production starred LaChanze as Celie, Brandon Victor Dixon as Harpo, Felicia P. Fields as Sofia, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Nettie, Kingsley Leggs as Mister, Krisha Marcano as Squeak, and Elisabeth Withers-Mendes as Shug Avery.

First national tour (2007-2010)[edit]

Chicago (2007)[edit]

The First National tour began on April 17, 2007, starting with an extended run at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. The company includes LaToya London as Nettie, Michelle Williams as Shug Avery, Felicia P. Fields as Sofia, and Jeannette Bayardelle as Celie, Stephanie St. James as Squeak. Bayardelle and Fields both are reprising their roles from Broadway. The show exceeded expectations, which necessitated a four week extension of its Chicago engagement until September 30, 2007.[4] The original expectation was that the show would run in Chicago until November.[5] In all, the show produced respectable business results bringing in about $1 million per week for the first half of the engagement, but less during the summer months when the ticket prices were reduced to $39.50 to keep the theater full.[6]

Chicago was notable as a starting point of the national tour because Oprah Winfrey, a 1986 Academy Awards nominee in the film adaptation[7] is a Chicago resident.[8][9] In addition, Felicia Fields is a Chicago native and resident. It was also a homecoming for Gary Griffin. Both Fields and Griffin made their broadway theatre debuts with this musical.[10] As a result of the Chicago connections the Chicago premiere had a star-studded red carpet with Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Jesse Jackson, R. Kelly, and Roger Ebert.[11] Others in attendance included United States Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Christie Hefner.[12] Coverage of the Chicago premiere was prominent in international media.[13]

Los Angeles (2010)[edit]

The first national tour played in Los Angeles, California at the Pantages Theatre on February 28, 2010. Fantasia Barrino, who starred as "Celie" on Broadway, reprised her role, in her last performance in the role.

Second national tour (2010-2011)[edit]

A second national tour with a new non-Equity cast opened on March 12, 2010 at the Lyric Opera House and visited numerous US cities, making several return engagements. The role of Celie was played by Detroit native Dayna Jarae Dantzler. The role of Shug Avery was played by New Orleans native Taprena Augustine. Tour stops include Omaha, Nashville, Fort Lauderdale, Mobile, Durham, and more.[14][15] Due to an overwhelming demand, the tour returned to New Orleans where it played a 5-show limited-engagement at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts from February 11–13, 2011.[16]

Third national tour (2012)[edit]

A third national tour with a non-Equity cast opened January 17, 2012 at the Francis Marion University PAC, in Florence, South Carolina, with previews in New Haven, CT at the Schubert Theater. The role of Celie is played by Washington, D.C. native, Ashley L. Ware, and Taprena Augustine has reprised her role as Shug Avery alongside Dayna Quincy taking the role of Nettie (later taking the role of Celie at Toby's Dinner Theatre in Columbia). Tour stops include Nevada (Las Vegas & Reno), Alabama (Mobile), Pennsylvania (Williamsport, Reading & Bloomsburg), and more.[15]

London production (2013)[edit]

A first international production, directed by John Doyle, opened in London at The Menier Chocolate Factory on July 17, 2013. The limited run ended on 14th September, 2013. The cast included Cynthia Erivo (Celie), Nicola Hughes (Shug) and Christopher Colquhoun (Mister/Albert).

Broadway revival (2015)[edit]

On January 9, 2015, producers Scott Sanders, Roy Furman, and Oprah Winfrey announced that the Menier Chocolate Factory production would be mounted on Broadway. Jennifer Hudson makes her Broadway debut in the role of Shug, Danielle Brooks plays the role of Sofia, and Cynthia Erivo reprises her role as Celie. Previews began November 10, 2015, with the official opening December 10 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.[17][18][19]


Act I[edit]

As the story begins, it is Sunday morning in rural Georgia, 1957. "Po' child" (Poor child) Celie, 14 years old and pregnant for the second time, is playing a clapping game with her beloved sister Nettie, who is 10 years old ("Huckleberry Pie"). When she comes to church with her sister and their Pa, Celie goes into labor before the service ends ("Mysterious Ways"). Later, Pa takes Celie's baby from her arms ("Somebody Gonna Love You"), saying he is going to get rid of it, "same as the last one," and that she better not tell anybody except God what happened. Celie asks God for a sign, something that will let her know what is happening to her.

4 years later, in 1961, when a local farmer, Mister, needs a wife to take care of his children, Pa says Nettie is too young, but offers him Celie instead, and throws a cow into a bargain. Although the girls vow never to be parted ("Our Prayer"), Celie goes with Mister to save Nettie's dreams of becoming a teacher. As the local Church Ladies cluck their approval ("That Fine Mister"), Mister's field hands introduce Celie to her life of hard work at Mister's ("Big Dog"). Nettie arrives one day, having fled from Pa's lecherous attentions, and asks if she can stay. Mister agrees, but then attacks Nettie on her way to school. When she fights back, he throws her off his property, swearing that the girls will never see each other again ("Lily of the Field"). Nettie promises to write to Celie as she is cast away from Mister's home. However, when Celie attempts to open the mailbox, Mister promptly rebuffs her, threatening her with death if she ever touches it again.

7 years later, in 1968, Mister's son, Harpo, grows up and soon brings home Sofia, a proud and strong-willed Mexican woman ("Dear God - Sofia") whom he loves and later marries. But eventually, Harpo tires of being bossed around by Sofia. Mister tells him he has to beat Sofia if he wants her to mind. Even Celie, who has endured such abuse from Mister, agrees this is the only way to make a woman "jump when he says to." But Sofia gives as good as she gets ("A Tree Named Sofia"), and is victorious in beating Harpo instead. Angered by Celie's suggestion, she confronts her ("Hell No!"), but her anger subsides when Sofia realizes how much Celie has suffered from Mister's cruelty. Not long after that, Sofia's sisters arrive to take her away. Sofia tries to convince Celie to come with her, but she declines. Left alone, Harpo turns his home into a juke joint and hires a new waitress, Squeak, to work there. Love-stricken, Squeak soon moves in with Harpo.

The whole town prepares for the arrival of Shug Avery, a sexy singer who is Mister's longtime lover ("Shug Avery Comin' to Town"). But when Shug arrives, she is in such bad shape that in spite of local disapproval ("All We've Got to Say"), Mister brings her home where Celie nurses her back to health ("Dear God - Shug"). As Celie takes care of Shug, she begins to experience feelings of affection and tenderness for the first time, as Shug befriends her ("Too Beautiful for Words"'). When Shug sings at Harpo's Juke Joint ("Push Da Button"), Sofia returns with her new boyfriend and gets into a fight with Squeak ("Uh Oh!"). In Mister's house, Shug and Celie explore their newfound love for each other ("What About Love?"). Shug gives Celie a letter she found from "someone in Africa, goin' by the stamps." Celie recognizes Nettie's handwriting and knows instantly that her beloved sister is alive ("Act I Finale").

Act II[edit]

Celie discovers the rest of the numerous letters that Mister has hidden over the years, and learns that Nettie traveled to Africa with the missionary family that also adopted Celie’s babies, and that they are now residing in an African refugee camp ("Africa"). Meanwhile, in Georgia, Sofia has been beaten and thrown into jail for punching the mayor. (When his wife asked Sofia to be her maid, and Sofia refused, the mayor decided to intervene and was then subjected to Sofia’s harsh temper.) Celie goes to the jail to comfort her, and learns that Sofia will have to serve out her sentence in the custody of the Mayor’s wife, thus reducing her to the very thing she fought so hard against. Twelve years later, in 1980, Sofia and Shug both return home for Easter. Shug discovers the extent of Celie’s anger towards God ("The Color Purple") and invites her to come live with her and her new husband in Memphis.

After Easter dinner ("Church Ladies’ Easter"), Celie tells Mister that she is leaving. He protests and she finally confronts him about his cruel treatment of her over the years ("I Curse You, Mister"). Squeak is off to Memphis also, stating that she wants to sing. Harpo defends her choice to his father, and long after they leave, he invites Sofia to come back and live at the Juke Joint, reconciling with her in the process. Soon, Mister begins to feel the effect of Celie’s curse. He’s drunk nearly all of the time, and is shunned by everyone. Harpo challenges his father to make things right with Celie, and Mister attempts to understand what that might mean ("Mister's Song - Celie’s Curse").

At Shug’s house in Memphis, Celie discovers that she has a natural gift for making pants. When she inherits the house she once lived and grew up in, she goes home and starts a business selling her unique designs ("Miss Celie’s Pants"). Mister tries to help Sofia’s sickly youngest child Henrietta, and even Celie has to admit that Mister is trying to change. Harpo and Sofia are spending a pleasant night at home ("Any Little Thing") when Mister comes to tell them that he has found Nettie, but that she is having some difficulty getting home from Africa. Shug tells Celie that she has fallen in love with a young flute player, and asks her to let her have one last fling with him ("What About Love? - Reprise"). Walking home, Celie realizes that she isn’t destroyed by this, and feels a deep love for herself, for the very first time ("I’m Here").

It is now 1997. As the whole community is gathered for a Fourth of July picnic at Celie’s home, Celie hears a car horn, then a familiar song from her childhood. Nettie runs towards the house, with Celie’s adult children following close behind. Mister and Shug have made this reunion possible, and Celie thanks them, and God, for the safe return of her family ("The Color Purple"- Reprise).


Casts of notable productions[edit]

Character 2005 Broadway 2007 U.S. Tour 2010 U.S. Tour 2013 Off-West End 2015 Broadway Revival
Celie LaChanze Jeannette Bayardelle Kenita R. Miller Cynthia Erivo
Nettie Renée Elise Goldsberry LaToya London Abiona Omonua Joaquina Kalukango
Shug Avery Elisabeth Withers Michelle Williams Angela Robinson Nicola Hughes Jennifer Hudson
Mister/Albert Kingsley Leggs Rufus Bonds, Jr. Christopher Colquhoun Isaiah Johnson
Sofia Felicia P. Fields Sophia Nomvete Danielle Brooks
Harpo Brandon Victor Dixon Stu James Adebayo Bolaji Kyle Scatliffe

Cast distinctions[edit]

  • Jeannette Bayardelle replaced LaChanze as Celie on November 5, 2006.
  • Kenita R. Miller replaced Jeannette as Celie on February 20, 2007.
  • Fantasia Barrino played the lead role of Celie from April 10, 2007, to January 6, 2008, becoming the first American Idol winner on Broadway.[20]
  • Fantasia reprised her performance as Celie in the 2010 National tour from June 30 to September 13, 2010.

Musical numbers[edit]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2006 Tony Award Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Marsha Norman Nominated
Best Original Score Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray Nominated
Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical LaChanze Won
Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical Brandon Victor Dixon Nominated
Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical Felicia P. Fields Nominated
Elizabeth Withers-Mendez Nominated
Best Choreography Donald Byrd Nominated
Best Scenic Design John Lee Beatty Nominated
Best Costume Design Paul Tazewell Nominated
Best Lighting Design Brian MacDevitt Nominated
Theatre World Award Felicia P. Fields Won
Elisabeth Withers-Mendes Won
2007 Grammy Award Best Musical Show Album Nominated
Theatre World Award Fantasia Barrino Won


  1. ^ "Alice Walker Novel Sings as 'The Color Purple' Musical Starts World Premiere, Sept. 9", September 2004
  2. ^, March 2004 "Alliance Theatre to Premiere 'The Color Purple' A New Musical", 2004
  3. ^ "Broadway's 'The Color Purple' Will Close Feb. 24", January 24, 2008.
  4. ^ Hetrick, Adam (2007-07-17). "The Color Purple Extends Chicago Run By a Month". Playbill News. Playbill, Inc. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  5. ^ "The Color Purple to Begin National Tour in Chicago in 2007"., Inc. 2006-03-06. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  6. ^ Jones, Chris (2007-09-28). "'Color Purple' makes its exit". Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  7. ^ "The Color Purple (1985)". 2004-03-28. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  8. ^ "Oprah at Chicago premiere of 'Purple'". USA TODAY. 2007-05-06. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  9. ^ "Oprah Winfrey attends Chicago premiere of "The Color Purple"". the International Herald Tribune. 2007-05-03. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  10. ^ Morgan, Scott C. (2007-05-09). "Theater: The Color Purple". Windy City Times. Windy City Media Group. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  11. ^ Baca, Stacey (2007-05-04). "Winfrey attends Chicago premiere of 'The Color Purple'". ABC Inc., WLS-TV/DT Chicago, IL. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  12. ^ "Oprah's 'Purple' Opens In Chicago: Local Celebrities Step Onto Red Carpet". NBC Universal, Inc. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  13. ^ "People: Avril Lavigne, Oprah Winfrey, Don Imus". the International Herald Tribune. 2007-05-04. Retrieved 2008-01-17. 
  14. ^ "'The Color Purple' tour listing"
  15. ^ a b [1]
  16. ^ [2]
  17. ^ "Jennifer Hudson Will Make Broadway Debut in Color Purple Revival". 2015-01-09. Retrieved 2015-04-01. 
  18. ^ Hetrick, Adam and Viagas, Robert. "Broadway 'Color Purple' Revival With Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo Sets Full Cast" Playbill, October 6, 2015
  19. ^ Playbill Staff. "The Verdict: Read Reviews for Broadway 'Color Purple' Revival, With Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo", December 11, 2015
  20. ^ "American Idol's Fantasia Barrino to Join The Color Purple". Wisdom Digital Media. 2007-02-22. Retrieved 2008-01-15. 

External links[edit]