Tony- and Grammy-winning actress Jennifer Holliday will return to Broadway for the first time in 15 years in the hit revival of the musical “The Color Purple,” the show’s producers announced on Wednesday.
Holliday, who earned a Tony in 1982 for originating the brassy Effie White in “Dreamgirls,” will take over the role of Shug Avery in John Doyle’s Tony-winning production.
The casting offers an interesting synergy: Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar playing Effie in the 2006 film version of “Dreamgirls,” first played Shug in the revival of “The Color Purple” when it opened last fall.
Heather Headley stepped into the role last May when Hudson left the show and will continue until October 2. Holliday’s first performance will be on October 4.
“I was deeply moved by this truly uplifting production of ‘The Color Purple’ and I am highly honored and absolutely thrilled to be joining this extraordinary cast,” Holliday said in a statement. “Nothing compares to performing before a Broadway audience and I can’t wait to return to the Broadway stage, where I started my career over 35 years ago.”
“There is a rich and significant legacy to the line of women who have been part of ‘The Color Purple,’ and I am very honored and excited to work with another major actress as she assumes one of its iconic roles,” said Tony-winning director John Doyle. “I am very taken with Ms. Holliday’s approach to the character of Shug and I look forward to sharing how her integrity and experience will enrich this production of ‘The Color Purple.'”
Holliday was discovered at age 17 while singing in her church choir in Houston, Texas, by Broadway dancer Jamie Patterson, who persuaded and guided her to New York, where she made her Broadway debut in Vinnette Carroll’s “Your Arms Too Short to Box With God” as a featured soloist.
Beyond Broadway, Holliday appeared as cast regular Lisa Knowles on Fox’s “Ally McBeal.” She has also enjoyed a successful recording career, winning her first Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her torch-ballad signature song, “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Most recently, Holliday received rave reviews and top soul-music charts recognition for her latest CD, “The Song Is You.”
Her last Broadway appearance was in 2001 for a brief run as the Matron in the long-running revival of “Chicago.”