Jennifer Holliday Returning to Broadway in 'The Color Purple'

Maury Phillips/Getty Images for ASCAP
Jennifer Holliday

The Tony-winning breakout star of 'Dreamgirls' will end a 15-year absence when she steps into the role of juke-joint singer Shug Avery in the hit musical revival.

Looks like The Color Purple will have some fresh box-office fuel in the fall.

Jennifer Holliday, who blazed a path to stardom with her Tony-winning performance as Effie White in Michael Bennett's original 1981 production of Dreamgirls, will return to Broadway after a 15-year absence to take over the role of Shug Avery.

The boozing juke-joint singer who brings love and light into the life of The Color Purple's downtrodden protagonist, Celie, Shug was first played in the current revival by another star previously associated with the role of Effie — Jennifer Hudson, who won an Oscar for the part in Bill Condon's 2006 screen version of Dreamgirls.

Hudson made her Broadway debut in The Color Purple but left the production in May when her contract was up. Tony winner Heather Headley stepped in to replace her and will continue in the role through Oct. 2. Holliday's first performance is Oct. 4.

In addition to Dreamgirls, in which her powerhouse performance of "And I Am Telling You, I'm Not Going" became legendary, Holliday appeared on Broadway in Your Arms Are Too Short to Box With God, Grease and, most recently, in a 2001 stint in the long-running revival of Chicago.

She won a Grammy in 1983 for best female performance, R&B, for her signature Dreamgirls ballad, and again in 1985 for inspirational performance, gospel, for "Come Sunday." Holliday has a history with The Color Purple, having appeared in a short 2014 tour as Sofia, the role played in the current revival by Orange Is the New Black regular Danielle Brooks.

Directed by John Doyle and produced by Scott Sanders, Roy Furman and Oprah Winfrey, The Color Purple opened Dec. 10 last year at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre to rave reviews. It won Tony Awards for best revival and for lead actress Cynthia Erivo.

With total grosses to date of $31 million, the show has been a steady if not quite spectacular earner. Producers clearly are hoping that recruiting a beloved Broadway star will help offset a recent decline at the box office and extend the revival's life.

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