Broadway fans are celebrating 50 years of a particularly memorable, toe-tapping musical theatre song March 15, the anniversary of Purlie opening at the Broadway Theatre in 1970.
Melba Moore stopped the show (and even the cast album) with her full-throated, no-holds-barred performance of "I Got Love," earning a Tony Award for Featured Actress in a Musical at the end of the season, while Cleavon Little won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical as the title character. (Smash fans may recognize the song from Jennifer Hudson's performance of it in Season 2.)
Based on Ossie Davis' play Purlie Victorious, Purlie is about a traveling preacher who returns home to save the community church. He's aided in his quest by Lutibelle (Moore). Directed by Philip Rose and choreographed by Louis Johnson, the show featured a score by Peter Udell and Gary Geld and earned five Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. The show ultimately ran for 688 performances at three theatres. The cast included The cast included C. David Colson, John Heffernan, Sherman Hemsley, Linda Hopkins, Helen Martin, and Novella Nelson.
A 1972 revival lasted just 14 performances; Encores! included the show in its 2005 season, starring Blair Underwood and Anika Noni Rose.
Moore recreated her performance in a 1981 Showtime adaptation with fellow original Broadway cast members Hemsley and Hopkins, with Robert Guillame as Purlie, Brandon Maggart as Cotchipee, Clarice Taylor as Idilla, and Don Scardino as Charlie. Watch her performance of "I Got Love" in that adaptation above.