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Encyclopedia > The Color Purple (musical)

The Color Purple is a Broadway musical based upon the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The musical opened on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre on December 1, 2005. The Color Purple is directed by Gary Griffin, with choreography by Donald Byrd. It features music and lyrics written by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, with a book by Marsha Norman. Broadway theatre[1] is often considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States. ... The Color Purple book cover The Color Purple is a 1982 novel by Alice Walker which received the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. ... Alice Malsenior Walker (born February 9, 1944) is an African-American author and feminist who received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1983 for The Color Purple. ... Broadway theatre[1] is often considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States. ... Broadway theatre[1] is often considered the highest professional form of theatre in the United States. ... December 1 is the 335th (in leap years the 336th) day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 2005 (MMV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Gary Griffin, born 1945 in Wichita Falls, Texas, is an American theater director. ... Donaldson Toussaint LOuverture Byrd II (born December 9, 1932) is an American jazz and rhythm and blues trumpeter, born in Detroit, Michigan. ... Brenda Russell (born April 8, 1949 in Brooklyn, New York) is an African American singer-songwriter and keyboardist. ... Allee Willis is an American songwriter, artist, set designer, multimedia artist, writer and director. ... Stephen Bray is a successful songwriter, drummer and record producer from Detroit. ... Marsha Norman was awarded the 1983 Pulitzer Prize, Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, Hull-Warriner, and Drama Desk Awards for Night, Mother, which received its world premiere at the A.R.T. in 1982. ...


Plot details

Act One

Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.

As the story begins, it is Sunday morning in rural Georgia, 1909. "Po' chile" Celie, 14 years old and pregnant for the second time, is playing a clapping game with her beloved sister Nettie ("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. Year 1909 (MCMIX) was a common year starting on Friday (see link for calendar). ...

A few years later, 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 fieldhands 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.

Mister's son, Harpo, grows up and soon brings home Sofia, a proud and strong-willed 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 ("Brown Betty"). 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 Two

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 ("African Homeland"). Meanwhile, in Georgia, Sofia has been beaten and thrown into jail for punching the mayor. (When his wife asks Sofia to be her maid, and Sofia refuses, the mayor decides to intervene and is 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, 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").

1949. 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"). Year 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1949 calendar). ...

Musical Numbers

Act One

  • Overture
  • Huckleberry Pie/Mysterious Ways
  • Somebody Gonna Love You
  • Our Prayer
  • That Fine Mister
  • Big Dog
  • Lily of the Field
  • Dear God - Sofia
  • A Tree Named Sofia
  • Hell No!
  • Brown Betty
  • Shug Avery Comin' to Town
  • All We've Got to Say
  • Dear God - Shug
  • Too Beautiful for Words
  • Push Da Button
  • Uh-Oh!
  • What About Love?
  • Act I Finale

Act Two

  • African Homeland
  • The Color Purple
  • Church Ladies' Easter
  • I Curse You Mister
  • Mister's Song - Celie's Curse
  • Miss Celie's Pants
  • Any Little Thing
  • What About Love? (Reprise)
  • I'm Here
  • The Color Purple (Reprise)

Broadway Production

Original Broadway Cast (2005)


  • 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
  • Elisabeth Withers-Mendes as Shug Avery

Ensemble: James Brown III, LaTrisa A. Coleman, Carol Dennis, Anika Ellis, Doug Eskew, Bahiyah Sayyed Gaines, Zipporah G. Gatling, Charles Gray, James Harkness, Francesca Harper, Kimberly Ann Harris, Chantylla Johnson, Grasan Kingsberry, J.C. Montgomery, Lou Myers, Angela Robinson, Nathaniel Stampley, Jamal Story, Leon G. Thomas III, Maia Nkenge Wilson, Virginia Ann Woodruff. LaChanze (whose name means one who is charmed) is an African-American actress, singer, and dancer. ... Renee Elise Goldsberry, in a still from the opening sequence of One Life to Live. ...

Swings: Jeannette I. Bayardelle, Eric L. Christian, Bobby Daye, Stephanie Guiland-Brown, Corinne McFarlane.

Standbys and Understudies: Standby for Celie/Nettie - Kenita R. Miller. Understudy for Celie/Nettie - Jeannette I. Bayardelle. For Harpo - James Brown III, Nathaniel Stampley. For Sofia - Carol Dennis, Kimberly Ann Harris. For Shug Avery - Anika Ellis, Angela Robinson. For Mister - Charles Gray, J.C. Montgomery. For Squeak - Francesca Harper.

Broadway Cast Replacement History

  • Kenita R. Miller will replace Jeannette Bayardelle as Celie on February 20, 2007.
  • NaTasha Yvette Williams replaced Felicia P. Fields as Sofia on January 30, 2007.
  • Chaz Lamar Shepherd replaced Brandon Victor Dixon as Harpo on January 30, 2007.
  • Darlesia Cearcy replaced Renée Elise Goldsberry as Nettie on January 17, 2006.
  • Jeannette Bayardelle replaced LaChanze as Celie on November 7, 2006.
  • Larry Marshall replaced Lou Myers as Ol' Mister on November 7, 2006.
  • Alton Fitzgerald White replaced Kingsley Leggs as Mister on November 7, 2006.
  • Montego Glover replaced Kenita R. Miller as the standby for Celie/Nettie on November 7, 2006.
  • Gavin Gregory replaced Nathaniel Stampley as Buster/understudy for Harpo.
  • Ricky Smith replaced Leon G. Thomas III as Young Adam/Young Harpo.

Awards and Nominations

2006 Tony Awards

(10 nominations, 1 win)

  • Best Musical
  • Best Book of a Musical
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Leading Actress in a Musical (LaChanze) WINNER
  • Best Featured Actor in a Musical (Brandon Victor Dixon, nominee)
  • Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Felicia P. Fields, nominee)
  • Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Elisabeth Withers-Mendes, nominee)
  • Best Choreography
  • Best Costume Design of a Musical
  • Best Lighting Design of a Musical

2006 Theatre World Awards

(2 wins)

  • Felicia P. Fields WINNER
  • Elisabeth Withers-Mendes WINNER

2006 Outer Critics Circle Awards

(4 nominations)

  • Outstanding Broadway Musical
  • Outstanding New Score
  • Outstanding Set Design
  • Outstanding Actress in a Musical (LaChanze, nominee)

2006 Drama League Awards

(3 nominations)

  • Distinguished Production of a Musical
  • Distinguished Performance Award (Felicia P. Fields, nominee)
  • Distinguished Performance Award (LaChanze, nominee)

2007 Grammy Awards

(1 nomination)

  • Best Musical Show Album

National tour

A national tour of The Color Purple will begin April 17, 2007 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago, Illinois. It has been announced that Felicia P. Fields, a Chicago native, will reprise her Tony Award-nominated performance as Sofia on the national tour. No other casting has been officially announced. April 17 is the 107th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (108th in leap years). ... 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD (or CE) era. ... Nickname: The Windy City, The Second City, Chi Town, City of the Big Shoulders, The 312, The City that Works Motto: Urbs In Horto (Latin: City in a Garden), I Will Location in Chicagoland and Illinois Coordinates: Country United States State Illinois County Cook & DuPage Incorporated March 4, 1837  - Mayor... Official language(s) English Capital Springfield Largest city Chicago Area  Ranked 25th  - Total 57,918 sq mi (149,998 km²)  - Width 210 miles (340 km)  - Length 390 miles (629 km)  - % water 4. ...

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