Oprah Winfrey said at this year’s CinemaCon that director Blitz Bazawule’s musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel is “not your Mama’s ‘Color Purple’,” and based on the first trailer, she’s right. Warner Bros. released the first trailer today, and between cinematographer Dan Laustsen’s cinematography and Fantasia Barrino’s soaring vocals, there’s enough packed into two minutes to bring out all the emotions.
Like Walker’s groundbreaking 1982 novel on which the musical is based, this feature follows Celie (Barrino as an adult and Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as a child), a Black woman struggling to survive in the South during the 1900s.
We see several sequences similar to what director Steven Spielberg had in his own adaptation of Walker’s book, released to theaters in 1985, including scenes of young Celie and her sister, Nettie (played by “Little Mermaid” star Halle Bailey as a teen) sitting in a tree, and the first meeting between Celie and her husband, referred to only as Mister (played by Colman Domingo).
Winfrey, who acted in Spielberg’s original feature and is a producer on this, mentioned during CinemaCon that the film deals in “fantastical realism” and that’s certainly evident in the bright, colorful sequences, including one of Taraji P. Henson’s Shug Avery, swathed in red, entering into frame on a boat.
Playing Celie as an adult, and in the lead role, is former “American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino. The screenplay is by Marcus Gardley (“Maid,” “The Chi”), based on the novel by Alice Walker and based on the musical stage play, book (of the musical stage play) by Marsha Norman, music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. The executive producers Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Carla Gardini, Mara Jacobs, Adam Fell, Courtenay Valenti, Sheila Walcott and Michael Beugg.
The original stage musical had a Broadway run from 2005 to 2008 but is probably best known for its 2013 London production that had star Cynthia Erivo in the role of Celie.
“The Color Purple” is getting a Christmas Day release which has been a good time to release big-budget musicals. Couple that with its Broadway bona fides, like 2012’s “Les Miserables” or 2006’s “Dreamgirls” and this could be an Oscar darling.
Watch the full trailer above.
“The Color Purple” hits theaters Christmas Day.