The new musical based on the well-known Alice Walker novel (which inspired the better-known film) made its world premiere at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre in fall 2004 and was expected to reach New York this fall, but is now aiming for a Broadway berth in spring 2006, a rep recently told Playbill.com.
Byrd has served as Spectrum Dance Theater's artistic director since December 2002. His choreography work has also been seen at The Intiman Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre and the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. He has created over 80 works, including The Harlem Nutcracker and has choreographed for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, The Philadelphia Dance Company (Philidanco) and stage productions at the New York Shakespeare Festival, Center Stage, La Jolla Playhouse, San Francisco Opera and New York City Opera.
The story of "The Color Purple" centers on Celie, a woman who endures insurmountable hardships within her own family and struggles to find her identity and love. The production warns that it "contains adult situations."
For the Atlanta run, La Chanze starred as Celie in a cast that also features Felicia P. Fields as Sofia, Saycon Sengbloh as Nettie, Adriane Lenox as Shug and Kingsley Leggs as Mister.
Chicago director Gary Griffin (City Center Encores' New Moon and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) staged the work featuring a book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Marsha Norman ('night, Mother) based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Music is by pop songwriters Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. The show blends "dance with the sounds and rhythms of blues, gospel, jazz, swing, rural roots and African music," according to a release. LaChanze is a veteran of such musicals as Once on This Island, Ragtime and The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin. She is currently starring in Lincoln Center Theater's production of the new Ahrens-Flaherty musical, Dessa Rose.
The world premiere of The Color Purple was produced by Alliance Theatre by special arrangement with Creative Battery and Scott Sanders Productions.
Byrd joins The Color Purple creative team which includes musical director Linda Twine (Caroline, or Change), orchestrator Jonathan Tunick (Nine) and designers John Lee Beatty (scenic), Brian MacDevitt (lighting), Paul Tazewell (costume) and Jon Weston (sound).
The novel by Walker was adapted for the screen in 1985 under the direction of Steven Spielberg. The movie version starred Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, Oprah Winfrey as Sofia and Danny Glover as Albert.