The Musical Adaptation Heads To The Big Screen [CinemaCon 2023]

The first footage from director Blitz Bazawule’s take on “The Color Purple” looks a lot different than the 1985 Spielberg adaptation of Walker’s book, and it knows it: after setting the scene with images of a foggy bayou, vibrant costumes, and a fire burning in the distance, text appears on screen that says: “Not Your Mama’s Color Purple.” We can also hear a woman’s voice saying, “I was married to a man I didn’t know.” The rest of the footage introduces audiences to Celie (Fantasia, reprising her Broadway role), Mister (Colman Domingo), and Sofia (Danielle Brooks, also reprising her role here in what looks to be a standout performance).

While much of the footage shown takes place in an outdoor plantation setting, one clip shows a lushly designed interior set that Pearson says calls to mind the production design of Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.” In the scene, women sit at a table opposite Mister, and declare that “Celie is coming with us.” Mister, a deeply abusive character in Walker’s novel, snaps back, “I would die before I let that happen.” Celie has her own excellent comeback: “Good, that’s the going away present I’ve been waiting for.”

CinemaCon audiences also got a sneak peek at some of the singing and dancing that’ll be featured in the musical, and overall, it looks like a stylized, energetic take on a classic story about the bond between women. Bazawule took to the stage along with the cast and producer — and star of the ’80s novel adaptation — Oprah Winfrey. While Bazawule spoke about telling the story in “a joyful way” and Fantasia was open about how heavy the role of Celie is to take on, Winfrey got the last word. “It’s not your mama’s color purple, but your mama’s gonna really like it,” she promised.

“The Color Purple” opens in theaters on December 25, 2023.

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