Jesse L. Martin, La Chanze, Anika Noni Rose Star in Reading of The Color Purple Musical

News   Jesse L. Martin, La Chanze, Anika Noni Rose Star in Reading of The Color Purple Musical Jesse L. Martin (Rent, "Law & Order"), La Chanze (Once on This Island) and Anika Noni Rose (Caroline, or Change) will star in a private New York City reading of the Broadway-bound musical adaptation of The Color Purple next week.

Jesse L. Martin (right) with Jerry Orbach
Jesse L. Martin (right) with Jerry Orbach Photo by Aubrey Reuben

Chicago director Gary Griffin is currently developing the new musical version for the producing company Creative Battery. No official dates or venues have been announced for the work, which will play an out-of-town tryout prior to heading to Broadway in 2005, a production spokesperson confirmed.

Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman ('Night Mother) has joined the creative team, replacing playwright-actress Regina Taylor (Drowning Crow) as librettist of the new stagework based on the novel by Alice Walker. Norman previously penned the Tony Award-winning book for the musical The Secret Garden.

The music for The Color Purple will combine the works of pop songwriters Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.

Griffin, who is known for his unique restagings of classic plays and musicals, recently remounted his production of Pacific Overtures at London's Donmar Warehouse. Other works from the seven-time Jeff Award-winning director include Sunday in the Park with George, The Herbal Bed, Beautiful Thing (which transferred to New York's Cherry Lane Theatre) and The New Moon for Encores!

The tuner will be produced by Creative Battery, a new company founded by producer Scott Sanders. The team's first Broadway credit, Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, garnered a Tony Award. The story of "The Color Purple" follows a teenager who gives birth to two of her father's children and then is married off to a man who sought her sister. The man convinces the sisters' father to separate the two and makes sure they never communicate by intercepting letters between them. Abused and alone, the heroine struggles to find her identity and love.

The Walker novel was adapted for the screen in 1985 under the direction of Steven Spielberg. The movie version starred Whoopi Goldberg, Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover.

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