Review Roundup: Tituss Burgess' THE PREACHER'S WIFE World Premiere

THE PREACHER'S WIFE will run on The Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre through June 16, 2024.

By: Jun. 03, 2024
Review Roundup: Tituss Burgess' THE PREACHER'S WIFE World Premiere
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The reviews are starting to roll in for The Alliance Theatre's world premiere musical, THE PREACHER’S WIFE, inspired by the 1996 film of the same name.

Featuring an original score by award nominated actor, musician, and writer Tituss Burgess (TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and a book by actress, producer, and writer Azie Dungey (TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Harlem, Girls5eva), THE PREACHER'S WIFE will run on The Coca-Cola Stage at Alliance Theatre through June 16, 2024, with an official opening set for Friday, May 24 at 8:00 p.m.  

Released in 1986, The Preacher's Wife was directed by Penny Marshall and starred Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston, and Courtney B. Vance. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Music, Original Musical or Comedy Score and was also nominated for five Image Awards, including Outstanding Motion Picture, and won two—for Best Actress (Whitney Houston) and Best Supporting Actress (Loretta Devine).
The cast of THE PREACHER’S WIFE includes Rebecca E. Covington as Beverly; NAACP Image Award and Emmy Award winner Loretta Devine (Film: Waiting to Exhale, The Preacher’s Wife; TV: Boston Public, Gray’s Anatomy; Broadway: Dreamgirls) as Marguerite Coleman; Alan H. Green (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) as Joe Hamilton; Jahi Kearse (Ain’t Too Proud) as Deacon Lewis; Davis Michael Matthews as Hakeem; Cameron McCrae as Jeremiah; Wayne Pretlow as Ol’ Mac; Brad Raymond (Film: The Color Purple) as Deacon Johnson; Screen Actors Guild Award and Laurence Olivier Award winner Amber Riley (TV: Glee, Single Black Female, Dancing with the Stars, The Masked Singer, The Wiz Live!, West End: Dreamgirls) as Julia Biggs; Akron Lanier Watson (The Play That Goes Wrong) as Henry Biggs, and Donald Webber, Jr (Hamilton) as Dudley.    
The ensemble includes Wesley J. Barnes, Brianna Bellamy, Angela Birchett, Laila Bollar, Melessie Clark, Cedrick Ekra, Cyniah Elise, Darius Harper, Toneisha Harris, Shaq Hester, Brianna Javis, Harper Miles, Amma Osei, Kala Ross, Drew Shade, Michael Stiggers, Alicia Thomas, Damani Van Rensalier, and Helen Marla White.  Ashley Jenkins serves as the Understudy for the role of Julia Biggs. 
THE PREACHER’S WIFE creative team is led by Tony Award-winning Director Michael Arden (Broadway: Parade; Alliance Theatre: Maybe Happy Ending) and award-winning Director and Alliance Theatre’s Jennings Hertz Artistic Director, Tinashe Kajese-Bolden (Regional: Toni Stone, Alliance Theatre: Furlough’s Paradise).  The musical’s book is by writer & producer Azie Dungey (TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Harlem, Girls5eva), with an original score by Georgia native and six-time Emmy Award nominee Tituss Burgess (TV: Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Theater: Moulin Rouge!).  
THE PREACHER’S WIFE creative team includes Choreographer Matthew Johnson Harris (Hippest Trip: The Soul Train Musical); Tony nominated Scenic Designer Dane Laffrey (Parade); Scenic Designer Teresa L. Williams (Jaja’s African Hair Braiding); Tony nominated Costume Designer Sarafina Bush (The Who’s Tommy); Tony nominated Lighting Designer Jennifer Schriever (A Strange Loop); Tony nominated Sound Designer Joshua D. Reid (A Christmas Carol); Wig Designer Cookie Jordan (Merrily We Roll Along); and Illusionist Skylar Fox (Fat Ham). James Sampliner (Legally Blonde) serves as the production’s Music Supervisor, Music Director, Orchestrator, and Arranger. 

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Jim Farmer, ArtsATL: World premieres are rarely finished products, and most will have some sort of tweaks and trims here and there along their journey. I imagine and hope “The Preacher’s Wife”will go through some fine tuning because there’s real potential in it and memorable moments already. Yet it is a bit underdeveloped, given the level of talent on the stage and behind the scenes.

Jennifer Skura Boutell, BroadwayWorld: Every detail of design and it's execution is the epitome of Broadway bold and gold. The Alliance's fly space seems to have reached a new level and the lights pour like honey onto every soloist descending the into floor. From the heavenly choir lofts to the devilish boiler room, each characters' personalities flow effortlessly through the complicated beauty and ugly that it is to be human. There's a lot to take in and worth teasing out into another intermission and third act with Sunday dinner.

Jody Tuso-Key, Speakeysie: I also especially enjoyed the performance of Amber Riley, who plays Julia–the preacher’s wife. Amber may be best known for her role as Mercedes in Glee (on eof my personal favorite characters). Over the years, Amber has grown as an actress and performer with and impressive resume of both screen and stage credits. I’ve always loved her voice, which is a mix of sweet soprano and powerhouse belting. I personally enjoyed the contrast to Whitney Houstons deeper tones, making this production a fresh new take on what is now a classic motion picture. Amber is also a top-notch actress, and brings the sweetness mixed with the struggles that defines a complex character.

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