In the new Broadway revival of The Color Purple, don’t expect to laugh along when Shug Avery sneers “You sho is ugly” to Celie. As played by Cynthia Erivo, the breakout British actress who is nothing short of stunning, Celie is too beautiful for words. Indeed Erivo’s countenance is spellbinding—and so is her lilting soprano, which conjures angels and defies demons.
Throughout the musical, she repeatedly sings “Dear God”—a choice phrase for beating back her bleak circumstance. “I never thought Celie was an ugly girl,” says Erivo. “She might be small, the runt of the family, the one who’s running around constantly, who hasn’t had time to look at herself in the mirror. But I think she’s lovely. And toward the end [of the show], she sees that about herself.”
Erivo might know Celie better than other actresses who’ve played her, having brought the beloved character to life in London in 2013 and now in New York City.
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For the 28-year-old petite star (who’s a contender for a 2016 Tony Award), life is beginning anew. Although Erivo is no stranger to the stage, having studied and performed for several years in London, she embraces her American reputation as a newcomer. “It’s the first time I’ve done something of this magnitude here and I relish it. It gives me a chance to paint a new picture,” she says. And what will the picture of the future look like after Purple? “I promise you I have no idea,” says Erivo of her singing and acting plans after her time with the musical ends. “My imagination is fuller than ever. It feels like there are no boundaries.”
The Color Purple: The Musical is currently playing on Broadway.
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