Houston’s kicking off 2018 in style with The Color Purple—2016 Tony Award winner for Best Musical Revival—opening at the Hobby Center January 9-14.
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the Warner Bros. / Amblin Entertainment motion picture, The Color Purple is adapted for the stage by Tony- and Pulitzer-winner Marsha Norman. Tony Award-winning director and scenic designer John Doyle (Sweeney Todd, Company) recreates his award winning work for the national tour,
We recently chatted about this iconic show with J. Daughtry, who plays Harpo.
What is the background to The Color Purple?
“It follows the life of a young lady named Celie, an African American woman living in the early 1900s. Throughout the show we see Celie, played by Adrianna Hicks, overcome many hardships and traverse from tragedy to triumph! Along the way we encounter both Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart) and Sofia (Carrie Compere) who become very strong influences.”
Tell us about your role in this Tony Award-winning revival.
“I play Harpo, the son of Mister (Gavin Gregory) and Celie’s future step-son. This in and of itself is an issue because Celie and Harpo are around the age of 14 when the show begins. We see Harpo fall in love with Sofia, who becomes the mother of his 5 children. Like Celie, Harpo has his own struggles and triumphs. By the end of the show, finally stands up to his father and the ideology of the men of that era. He is the only man in the show that we see showing emotions other than anger or lust towards women. We see Harpo deeply in love with Sofia, respectful to Shug Avery and a friend to Celie. I like to think that Harpo is our representation of a new generation of men and the change in relationships between men and women.”
We hear you had a personal journey to being cast in The Color Purple.
“I was in another show on Broadway for four months, couldn’t find my feet, so began looking around. Then I went to see The Color Purple with a friend. Well, I called in sick to my show for the next four nights and went to see The Color Purple every night. (Shhh, that’s our little secret!) The very next week my agent asked me about auditioning for a swing role in The Color Purple. (A “swing” is a person who covers several roles and is on standby in case of illness or emergency.) I’d never done it before and was intimidated, but I really wanted to be in it so I auditioned. About 30 minutes after my audition I got the call saying that I had been cast and would be considered an original Broadway cast member. I covered 6 of the 8 men. I never went on as Harpo, but I worked hard. One day I received an email with an offer for the National Tour of The Color Purple in the role of Harpo!”
How has your cast role impacted you?
“This role has allowed me the opportunity to really look inside and find the places where I feel oppressed, and find the strength to overcome. I think a lot of times we find ways to tuck away the parts of life that we don’t want to deal with. As an actor who plays the role with honesty, it immediately became impossible for me to do that. Early on in the rehearsal room I found myself dealing with years of repressed emotions and unraveling some damaging thought processes.”
What is the single message you want the audience to leave with?
“That transformation is possible… that who and what you are today is not who and what you have to be tomorrow. My favorite book says, “Be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” That is the message that I want every one witnessing our show to go home with in their hearts.”
The Color Purple runs January 9-14 at Houston’s Hobby Center | Get tickets here
Cover: Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and the North American tour cast of The Color Purple • Photo Matthew Murphy, 2017