After a 15 year absence from Broadway, the queen honey bee has come home to sing for y’all, and with the addition of Tony winner Heather Headley as Shug Avery opposite Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks, the Tony-nominated revival of The Color Purpleis the most satisfying ticket in town.
BroadwayBox recently went back to the Jacobs Theatre to see Ms. Headley, and it was nothing short of a religious experience (and this is no shade to J Hud ‘cause we loved her Shug too—and the Oscar winner never missed a performance). Here are just five moments Heather Headley slayed the MF house down.
1. The Damaged Woman Beneath the Star
Shug is a star and Shug is sexy—that’s undeniable—but Heather Headley plays all the damage underneath that sexy star, especially during her first big scene. She’s sitting on stage in that slip, hearing the men talk about her and the “nasty woman’s disease”, and you see a flood of tears streaming down her face. It's chilling. It gives the character such depth and puts her squarely in the same messed up world as Celie and Sofia.
2. Her super sexy “Push Da Button”
The video above gives you a sense of the vocals happening, but you need the staging to see that this Shug Avery is walking sex. You totally understand why church ladies and men alike are so flustered by her coming to town. She’s grinding on men, being all kinds of felt up, her slip is showing, she’s moving like cat—it’s absolutely everything. No wonder Oprah gave it a standing ovation during Headley’s first performance.
3. The Squeak and Sofia Fight
Heather’s Shug is giving me a glimpse of Wendy Williams during Hot Topics in this scene. She is living her life hearing the dirt and watching the drama unfold. She’s cheering on that fight like it’s a catfight at your local HS. Just watch her in the background as it all goes down. I felt myself finger waving more at Heather than the fight.
4. The Kiss Into “What About Love”
In the OBC & OBRC, the kiss was a passionate moment and the song was this “I love you; let’s figure it out” moment. Now, the scene is played like two friends laughing, having a good time, and they just happen to share a quick kiss—one that the audience already knows Celie wants but that completely throws Shug for a loop. The song “What About Love” in this context is played like each one of them accepting what could be, and Cynthia’s Celie almost convincing Heather’s Shug to jump in and just love her.
5. The Leaving You For Germaine scene
It starts out so nervous with the fortune cookie readings then that Shug temper flares up but it is also this vulnerable and vain woman trying to hold onto her image of herself. It becomes so heartbreaking and the perfect appetizer for Erivo’s big “I’m Here” meal. Also, her delivery of “he had to go to college”, A+.Honorable mentions: Her delivery of “you sure is ugly” and the Celie will take the house and the store scene.
Get yourself over to the Jacobs Theatre now to see Heather Headley in ‘The Color Purple’.