By Carol-Ann Rudy

The Color Purple will close after its final performance on Sunday, February 24, after a highly successful run. Entering into its third year at the Broadway Theatre, the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical has grossed more than $103 million, recouping its $11 million investment handily in the first year. It opened officially Dec. 1, 2005, following previews that began Nov. 1, 2005 and after a World Premiere engagement at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta in 2004. In addition to the 30 preview showings, the musical has held 910 regular performances, and it is the second block-buster musical along with Rent to announce its closing this past week.

Along the way, numerous stars have traded places in the cast of 37, including Zonya Love, currently playing the central character of Celie. Grammy Award winner Chaka Khan plays the role of Sofia. Two other notable actresses playing the central role of Celie in the past were LaChanze who won a 2006 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical and most recently Fantasia Barrino, best known as an “American Idol” winner.

Winfrey was instrumental in bringing the book to the Broadway stage. To quote her in an article from Playbill, “I’m so proud to have been a part of this production that not only made Broadway history, but resonated with a new generation and touched the lives of more than one million theatergoers.” Winfrey was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of the character Sofia in the Steven Spielberg movie of the same name in 1985. Whoopi Goldberg played the role of Celie in the movie.

The musical is based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker and was directed by Gary Griffin with libretto by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman. Lyrics and music were by Grammy Award winners Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. Choreography was by Donald Byrd. John Lee Beatty created the scenic design.

The stage production has received many accolades: it was nominated for eleven Tony Awards in 2006 including Best Musical. It will continue to engage audiences, as the national tour is scheduled to run through 2009, playing in Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Atlanta, among others.

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