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Obituaries

THE COLOR PURPLE's Allee Willis Dies at 72

THE COLOR PURPLE's Allee Willis Dies at 72

BroadwayWorld is sad to report that THE COLOR PURPLE's co-writer, Allee Willis, died on December 24, 2019 at 72. Willis' long-term partner Prudence Fenton shared news her death on Instagram. "Rest In Boogie Wonderland Nov 10,1947-December 24, 2019," he wrote next to a photo of Willis - referring to one of the Earth, Wind & Fire hits Willis had co-written. Willis sold more than 50 million records, including "September," "Boogie Wonderland," "Neutron Dance" and "What Have I Done to Deserve This?" She has a Grammy for the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack and an Emmy nomination for the "Friends" theme song. She's an award-winning artist, performer, multimediaist, writer and director.

Inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 2018, Willis was a Grammy, Emmy, Tony and Webby award-winning and nominated songwriter, performer, visual artist, multimediaist, director, collector, social artist, and party thrower.

For the stage, Willis co-wrote (with Brenda Russell, Steve Bray, and Marsha Norman) the Oprah Winfrey-produced Broadway musical The Color Purple, which opened in December 2005 (in early 2006, Willis had seven of her hits featured in the Earth, Wind & Fire-themed musical Hot Feet, making her the first woman - and only fifth person ever - to have written music for two shows opening on Broadway in the same season). The Color Purple ran for two-and-a-half years, recouping in less than one year, a rare accomplishment for any musical. As reported by the New York Times, Willis, Russell and Bray "worked in their idiosyncratic style, mixing high-tech tools - Ms. Willis' 17 networked Macs, which they used for research, and programs that allowed them to digitally record complete orchestrations - and very low-tech instruments like an old manual eggbeater or sandpaper." The process the Times mentions echoes Willis' own evaluation of her fundamental style across all the disciplines as "a blend of the highest tech and design and the lowest Kitsch."

After an original run on Broadway from 2005-2008, a revival of The Color Purple directed by famed theater director John Doyle returned December 10, 2015, opening to unanimously rave reviews and winning both the Tony for Best Musical Revival and the Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. New York Magazine called it "one of the best musical revivals ever" while The New York Times praised it as "a miracle on Broadway...a glory to behold." The Color Purple ran for fourteen months at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre and starred Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks, and Cynthia Erivo, who won the Tony, Grammy, and Emmy awards for her portrayal of the lead character, Celie.


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