After initial reports that the upcoming movie musical adaptation of Broadway's The Color Purple would include new songs, we now know more about what those songs are! The film is set to hit movie theatres December 25.
One of those new songs in the film is not actually new to The Color Purple, though it will be new to most audiences. According to Purple Rising, a new book celebrating the upcoming film and its earlier iterations (released earlier this month by Lise Funderburg and The Color Purple stage and film producer Scott Sanders), the film will include "She Be Mine." It is sung by Broadway The Lion King alum Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as Young Celie after spotting her stolen baby daughter in a local store. The song was one of two written by Allee Willis, Brenda Russell, and Stephen Bray as their audition to write the musical's score, and survived to the musical's 2004 pre-Broadway world premiere run at Atlanta's Alliance Theatre before being cut for the 2005 Broadway bow. According to Purple Rising, the song has been reinstated in the movie musical and is one of the film's many moments of magical realism, a new element introduced to this iteration of The Color Purple by screenwriter Marcus Gardley and director Blitz Bazawule. (Willis, Russell, and Bray's other audition song, by the way, was "Shug Avery Comin' to Town," which did make it to the final stage score.)
Another new song features new writers. Halley Bailey (The Little Mermaid), starring as Celie's sister Nettie, is among the co-writers of "Keep It Movin'," which is one of two songs from the film submitted by Warner Brothers for Academy Award consideration (songs have to be new for the film to be eligible in the Best Original Song category), according to studio representatives. The song is reportedly a duet between Bailey and Mpasi, with Bailey joined on the writing team by Denisia Andrews, Brittany Coney, and Morten Ristorp.
The film's representatives are keeping mum for now on the second original song being submitted to the Academy, but stay tuned. With press screenings for the upcoming release set to begin later this week, we may get more information about that soon enough. We do know via David Alan Grier, playing Reverend Avery in the film, that his character will lead one of the movie's new songs. Reverend Avery is new to the musical version of Alice Walker's seminal novel, which implies that filmmakers have brought back the 1985 film's subplot about Shug Avery and her preacher father. In the 1985 non-musical film, that storyline notably culminated in a performance of the gospel hymn "God Is Trying to Tell You Something."
The Color Purple is being led onscreen by Broadway Color Purple alums Fantasia Barrino as Celie and Danielle Brooks as Sophia, along with Grammy winners Jon Batiste as Grady and Ciara as Adult Nettie, Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery, Corey Hawkins as Harpo, H.E.R. as Squeak, Bailey as Young Nettie, Tony nominee Colman Domingo as Mister, Tony winner David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery, Aunjanue Ellis as Celie and Nettie's mother, Elizabeth Marvel as Miss Millie, Louis Gossett, Jr. as Ol' Mister, Mpasi as Young Celie, Tamela Mann as First Lady, Deon Cole as Alfonso, Stephen Hill as Buster, Terrence J. Smith as Adam, Tiffany Elle Burgess as Olivia, and Aba Arthur as Abena.
Blitz Bazawule, who co-helmed Beyoncé’s visual album Black Is King, directs, with Winfrey, Quincy Jones, Sanders, and Steven Spielberg serving as producers. Marcus Gardley penned the screenplay, adapted from Marsha Norman’s stage book and Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray’s score. The stage musical was adapted from Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer-winning novel and its 1985 film adaptation.
The Color Purple debuted on Broadway in 2005, winning original Celie, LaChanze, a Tony Award for her performance. A 2015 revival helmed by John Doyle earned its Celie, Cynthia Erivo, a Tony Award before propelling her to Hollywood stardom. Brooks co-starred with Erivo as Sophia, the role she reprises in the upcoming movie musical.