Jennifer Hudson leaving The Color Purple, Tony winner to replace
Jennifer Hudson is pushing the exit button.
The Oscar and Grammy winner will vacate her role as Shug Avery in the hit Broadway revival of The Color Purple, making way for Tony winner Heather Headley to replace her on May 10.
Hudson made her Broadway debut as the flashy blues singer in director John Doyle’s minimalized revival of the musical, based on Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, in December 2015 — alongside fellow debuts and current Color Purple stars, Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) and Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple in London).
The news comes with curious timing, as this year’s Tony Award nominations will be announced on May 3, just a week before Hudson’s exit from the show. Should she be nominated, voters would only have eight chances to see her featured performance; theoretically, though not assumedly, they already have, given that The Color Purple opened in December, months prior to the heaviest concentration of spring openings.
In a tweet, Hudson offered a letter to fans about her departure:
“These last six months have been nothing short of a dream come true,” she writes. “I have found an extended family in the cast of The Color Purple that will go far beyond my commitment on-stage. I owe so much to the Broadway community and our audiences. My heart is full as I say to Broadway, ‘until we meet again.’”
Headley, meanwhile, is a Tony-winning stage name best known for her title performance in Aida. In recent days, she played the Whitney Houston role in the West End musical adaptation of The Bodyguard, which is currently circling North America on tour.
In EW’s roundtable with Hudson, Brooks, and Erivo, Hudson said: “It’s an honor to be a part of an American classic that’s been dear to all of us in some way. We can all relate to the characters in some way. I had never imagined myself in it, but I also couldn’t imagine thinking of a better show to make my Broadway debut in. I always said maybe when I got to 35, I’d be ready to do theater. It’s a year earlier, but it’s perfect. I wanted to be more stationary and focused, because this is something you can’t half-ass. I didn’t want anything else to be in the way. Five years ago … I don’t know. There’s still a lot going on now, but I want to focus on just this, and it feels right.”
The Color Purple