Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Fantasia Says Her Life Was in “Shambles” When She Did “The Color Purple” on Broadway — But Things Have Changed

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Fantasia Barrino. She won “American Idol” season 3. She was 19 years old, it was 2004, and she knew nothing about showbiz.

Tonight I saw her in the musical movie adaptation of “The Color Purple,” coming from Warner Bros. on Christmas Day. You may recall Jennifer Hudson, who finished in 7th place in Fantasia’s season, went on to win an Oscar.

Fantasia went on to a rocky recording career. Hers was not yet a success story. She told an ecstatic audience last night at the Robin Williams SAG Theater in Manhattan that by the time she took the role of Celie in 2007 as a replacement in theĀ  original Broadway production of “The Color Purple,” her life was in “shambles.”

She also survived an overdose (after appearing on Broadway) and overcame a bad marriage and constant family strife.

How things have changed! Prodded by Broadway producer Scott Sanders, Fantasia agreed to play Celie again in this new movie version. When he first asked her, she said she responded with “no way.”

But then Scott and director Blitz Balawule explained that this version would show Celie’s journey via her imagination. “We weren’t able to do that on Broadway. That’s when I said Yes.”

The result is that Fantasia could very well be a nominee for Best Actress this year. Her formidable competition would include Emma Stone, Carey Mulligan, Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, and so on. But Fantasia, I feel, will surprise everyone. “The Color Purple” is joyous and moving, a satisfying emotional ride that departs from Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film in very positive ways.

“The Color Purple” could break the logjam in Oscar prognosticators’ calculations between “Oppenheimer” and “Killers of the Flower Moon.” For one thing, it’s just two hours long. For another, it causes a lump in the throat for the final 15 minutes. Stranger things have happened!

Along with Fantasia and director Bazwule the whole main cast was in attendance last night including Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, and Corey Hawkins. You’ll be hearing from and about them a lot in the coming month. I haven’t seen a cast connect with an audience this way since “CODA.” And you know how that turned out.

PS And everyone sang Happy Birthday to Colman Domingo– twice (once the standard song, then the Stevie Wonder one). It’s Domingo’s year with the lead in “Rustin” and supporting here. Two Oscar noms? Indeed!

Biggest takeaway: Taraji sings! She’s amazing. Wait til you hear her. The movie is loaded with incredible voices.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
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