Leicester’s Curve theatre and Birmingham Hippodrome have announced the cast of their co-production of acclaimed musical The Color Purple, which is set to tour England and Wales for the first time this autumn thanks to support from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Funding.
Leading the company as the downtrodden but full-hearted heroine Celie is Me’sha Bryan, whose previous roles have included Romantics Anonymous (Bristol Old Vic), Caroline, or Change (The Playhouse Theatre) and The Lion King (UK tour). The role of glamorous singer Shug Avery will be played by Bree Smith (The Wiz, Hope Mill Theatre), Aaliyah Zhané (The Comedy of Errors, Mercury Theatre) joins as Celie’s sister Nettie, Harpo will be played by Ahmed Hamad (The Addams Family, UK Tour and The Boy in the Dress, RSC) and Squeak will be portrayed by Jimand Allotey, who makes her professional stage debut in the production.
The tour sees several cast members from Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s original award-winning production return, including Ako Mitchell as Mister, Anelisa Lamola as Sofia, KM Drew Boateng as Pa, Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah as Darlene and Karen Mavundukure as Doris and Alternate Celie.
The cast also includes Kyle Birch, Kayla Carter, Joshua Clemetson, Esme Laudat, DeeArna McLean, Monifa James, Nathaniel Morrison, Alex Okoampa and Neil Patterson.
The Color Purple will once again be directed by Tinuke Craig, with Lakesha Arie-Angelo as Revival Director. Also resuming their roles on the production team are Musical Supervisor Alex Parker, Orchestrator Martin Higgins, Choreographer Mark Smith, Designer Alex Lowde and Video Designer Joshua Pharo, Sound Designer Tom Marshall and Casting Director Kay Magson CDG, with Ian Oakley as Musical Director, Ricardo Pardo as Associate Designer and Gail Parmel and Iona Waite as Associate Choreographers also joining.
Speaking about the announcement, Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said:
“We are delighted to announce our exceptional The Color Purple company, assembled by the brilliant Tinuke Craig. The Color Purple is very close to our hearts, and we cannot wait to welcome back familiar faces and new colleagues to take this award-winning Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome production on tour. We know this extraordinary team will create something truly special for audiences across England and Wales this Autumn.
“Our thanks once again to our friends at Theatrical Rights Worldwide and Arts Council England, whose support has made the tour of this production possible.”
Chris Sudworth, Director of Artistic Programme at Birmingham Hippodrome said:
“We are delighted that our very special co-production of The Color Purple will open the musical’s first ever UK tour on the Hippodrome’s main stage, after such a fantastic response from our audiences in 2019. We are committed to making high quality work in the Midlands and delighted the show will be seen so widely thanks to the support of our partner venues and Arts Council England. We can’t wait to welcome this wonderful company to the Hippodrome for rehearsals next week.”
The tour will open at Birmingham Hippodrome 13 to 17 September, the musical will then visit Theatre Royal Plymouth (27 September to 1 October), Royal & Derngate Northampton (4 to 8 October), The Lowry in Salford (11 to 15 October), Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (18 to 22 October), Mayflower Theatre Southampton (25 to 29 October), finishing its run at Norwich Theatre Royal (1 to 5 November). Listings and ticket information can be found below.
Originally staged in 2019, Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s production of The Color Purple received an incredible response from critics and audiences alike, winning the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Regional Production. During lockdown in Spring 2021, Curve – in association with Birmingham Hippodrome – reunited the company to share a special digital production of the show which was streamed by over 20,000 people* in the UK and Ireland.
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel and adapted for the stage by Pulitzer Prize and Tony award-winner Marsha Norman, Allee Willis, Brenda Russell and Stephen Bray, The Color Purple tells the powerful and life-affirming story of courageous heroine Celie. Abused and oppressed throughout her youth, Celie embarks on a journey through joy, despair, anguish and hope, discovering her own unique voice thanks to the incredible women in her life. From an unbreakable bond with her sister Nettie, to friendship with fiercely independent Sofia and a life-changing affair with glamorous singer Shug Avery, Celie learns to love herself.
With a profoundly evocative score by Grammy award-winners Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray and drawing inspiration from jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues, this landmark musical celebrates life, love and the strength to stand up for who you are and what you believe in.