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BWW TV Exclusive: Look Back at Composing The Color Purple

The Color Purple will have played more than 900 regular performances by the time it is scheduled to close February 24, 2008 on Broadway, having first opened in New York in late 2005. As the lights go down for the Oprah Winfrey backed production on Broadway, the first North American Tour is currently playing in Los Angeles before heading out to cities including Tempe, Detroit and Atlanta through 2009.

On Broadway, The Color Purple recouped its entire $11 million investment in its first year and earned eleven Tony Award nominations, picking up one award for Best Actress in a Musical. The Broadway production stars Chaka Khan as Sofia, BeBe Winans as Harpo, LaKisha Jones as the Church Soloist at all evening performances and Sofia at all matinee performances, Montego Glover as Nettie, Elisabeth Withers-Mendes as Shug Avery, Alton Fitzgerald White as Mister, Krisha Marcano as Squeak and Zonya Love as Celie.

With the production coming to a close in New York, BroadwayWorld's own James Sims caught up with The Color Purple's composers/lyricits Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, in Los Angeles, to discuss how the pair, along with Brenda Russell and Marsha Norman (libretto), turned a Pulitzer Prize winning novel and Oscar nominated film into a Broadway musical.

A Grammy Award winner, Willis' work includes selling 50 million records with songs including Earth, Wind & Fire's "September" and "Boogie Wonderland" to Dusty Springfield's "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" Bray has worked with Madonna, writing and producing her top-ten hits including "Into the Groove," "Papa Don't Preach" and "Express Yourself." Both composers made their Broadway debuts with the music and lyrics for The Color Purple.

For more information on the currently running National Tour and the Broadway production, visit And for more from James Sims visit

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From This Author James Sims

James Sims is the Senior Editor at Beyond his duties on this website, James also contributes as a featured blogger for the Huffington Post. (read more...)