Jennifer Holliday, who won a Tony Award in 1981 for her volcanic performance as Effie White in the original Dreamgirls, returns to Broadway October 4 in the role of the sexy cabaret singer Shug Avery in the Tony-winning revival of The Color Purple at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
Holliday, who made Broadway history introducing the song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” succeeds Heather Headley, who played her last performance October 2. Holliday will play opposite Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo in the role of Celie.
“I was deeply moved by this truly uplifting production of The Color Purple and I am highly honored and absolutely thrilled to be joining this extraordinary cast,” said Holliday in an earlier statement. "Nothing compares to performing before a Broadway audience and I can't wait to return to the Broadway stage, where I started my career over 35 years ago.”
Director John Doyle added, “There is a rich and significant legacy to the line of women who have been part of The Color Purple, and I am very honored and excited to work with another major actress as she assumes one of its iconic roles. I am very taken with Ms. Holliday’s approach to the character of Shug and I look forward to sharing how her integrity and experience will enrich this production of The Color Purple.”
The Houston-born Holliday made her Broadway debut at age 19 in Vinnette Carroll’s 1980 gospel musical Your Arms Too Short To Box With God as a featured soloist. After Dreamgirls she returned to Broadway just twice as a replacement Teen Angel in the 1994 revival of Grease, and as a replacement Matron “Mama” Morton in the long-running revival of Chicago for two months in 2001. This is her first return to Broadway since then.
She appeared as cast regular Lisa Knowles on the Fox TV show Ally McBeal, and won a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for her torch ballad version of “And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going.”
The Color Purple company also includes Isaiah Johnson, Joaquina Kalukango, Kyle Scatliffe, Phoenix Best, Angela Birchett, Dwayne Clark, Lawrence Clayton, Carrie Compere, Patrice Covington, J. Daughtry, Adrianna Hicks, Bre Jackson, Grasan Kingsberry, Kevin Mambo, Ken Robinson, Antoine L. Smith, Carla R. Stewart, Akron Watson and Rema Webb.
(Updated October 4, 2016)