State Theatre New Jersey

Scene Notes

Meet the Inspiring Characters in The Color Purple

And I’m here! The national tour of The Color Purple hits the State Theatre New Jersey stage on January 30-February 1. The musical, based on the novel by Alice Walker, tells a story about life in 1900s rural Georgia for African Americans. Here is a summary of some of The Color Purple’s key characters and the actors and actresses who have brought these characters to life.   

Celie is our lead character, who is introduced to us when she is 14-years-old and pregnant. The father of her unborn child is her own father, Alphonso. Alphonso has been abusing and raping Celie for years, and has gotten her pregnant one time before. Celie’s battered childhood leads her to believe that she is ugly, worthless, and alone. However, in the series of events in the show, Celie grows confidence in herself after meeting people who she initially did not realize would change her life. 

Who Has Played Her:

  • ​LaChanze: Original Broadway Cast, won Tony® for Best Actress in a Musical in 2006
  • Cynthia Erivo: Off-West End and Broadway Revival, won Tony® for Best Actress in a Musical and Drama Desk Award for Best Actress in a Musical in 2015
  • Whoopi Goldberg: 1985 film, won Golden Globe® Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture
  • Mariah Lyttle: Currently on the national tour and in our production

Nettie is Celie’s younger sister, and dreams of becoming a teacher one day. The two sisters promised each other that they will never separate, but Celie sacrifices herself to marry Mister so Nettie can live out her teaching dream. Nettie is absent for most of the production, her and Celie stay in touch through letters. Her spirit forever remains in Georgia where Celie wishes for their reunion every day they are apart. 

Who Has Played Her:

  • Renne Elise Goldsberry: Original Broadway Cast
  • LaToya London: 2007 and 2010 National Tour
  • Akosua Busia: 1985 film
  • Nashka Desrosiers: Currently on the national tour and in our production

Sofia can be described as the role model in The Color Purple. She is a confident, independent woman who lets no man, black or white, control her. She is the first person to tell Celie that she has a life worth living, and that she should stand up for herself against her abusers. This moment in the show has the biggest impact on Celie’s future. She continuously perseveres throughout the production, and is deemed a feminist heroine.

Who Has Played Her:

  • Felicia P. Fields: Original Broadway Cast, won Theatre World Award in 2006
  • Danielle Brooks: Broadway Revival, Honoree for Theatre World Award in 2015
  • Oprah Winfrey: 1985 film
  • Chédra Arielle: Currently on the national tour and in our production

Shug Avery is a jazz singer who comes to town. She is Mister’s secret lover, until it is no longer a secret. There is a strong connection between her and Celie when Celie begins to take care of her when she falls ill. Shug’s warmth sparks emotion in Celie that she has not felt in ages. Shug has that power over men, as well. Shug is considered both a lover and a mentor to Celie, even during conflict in terms of loyalty. 

Who Has Played Her:

  • Elisabeth Withers: Original Broadway Cast, won Theatre World Award in 2006
  • Jennifer Hudson: Broadway Revival
  • Jennifer Holliday: Broadway Revival
  • Margaret Avery: 1985 film
  • Sandie Lee: Currently on the national tour and in our production

Albert “Mister” Johnson is Celie’s husband. Celie’s father handed her to Mister to be his wife, so Celie had no say on who she would marry. Mister is far from the ideal husband. He is abusive, dangerous, and unfaithful to Celie as he has many mistresses. However, Mister’s development in the production goes from one end of the spectrum to the other. He represents characters who change for the good.  

Who Has Played Him:

  • Kingsley Leggs: Original Broadway Cast
  • Isaiah Johnson: Broadway Revival
  • Danny Glover: 1985 film
  • Andrew Malone: Currently on the national tour and in our production

Harpo Johnson is Mister’s son who marries Sofia. Harpo defies the male stereotype, especially in the setting of The Color Purple. He, unlike the other men in the show, shows compassion towards the women in his life, especially his wife, Sofia. Although he is led to believe that beating his spouse is the answer, Harpo and Sofia’s marriage represents one of the hardest adversities in relationships: forgiveness.  

Who Has Played Him:

  • Brandon Victor Dixon: Original Broadway Cast
  • Kyle Scatliffe: Broadway Revival
  • Willard E. Pugh: 1985 film
  • Brandon A. Wright: Currently on the national tour and in our production

Mary “Squeak” Agnes is a half black and half white woman who is introduced as Harpo’s partner after he and Sofia separate. Squeak’s presence in the musical exemplifies how people, especially women, can be abused by men who believe they have higher power, no matter what racial background the women come from. 

Who Has Played Her:

  • Rae Dawn Chong: 1985 Film
  • Gabriella Rodriguez: Currently on the national tour and in our production

The Color Purple is a story that demonstrates themes of hope, freedom, and confidence. The Color Purple comes to State Theatre New Jersey during the Broadway season the weekend of January 30-February 1.

By Kerriann Ring

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