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April 24, 2014

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Fantasia: 'Touching Lives' With 'Color Purple' Return

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In her 2005 memoir, 'Life Is Not a Fairytale,' and her Lifetime television network biopic of the same name, Fantasia let it be known that she's experienced her share of hard times.

The North Carolina-native was raped by a classmate and shortly thereafter became a single mother -- all before dropping out of high school. This left Fantasia a victim of low self-esteem. To say that she shares a few things with 'The Color Purple's' main character would be an understatement.

If you were fortunate enough to witness this one-name musical powerhouse take over the Broadway role of Celie Johnson from Tony Award-winning actress LaChanze, there is no doubt you knew this casting was genius.

The 'American Idol' winner starred in the musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from April 2007 to January 2008. And with every emotional song she sang on stage, it became more difficult to gauge if there really was a Grammy Award-nominated singer beneath that dowdy outfit and nappy pigtails.

But on July 1, Fantasia reprised her role in the Washington, D.C., production of the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical.

Though health problems caused the 'American Idol' winner to miss about 50 performances during her nine-month Broadway run, this time around, Fantasia said she's in a different place in her life than her first go 'round.

"It's been a journey," she shared with BV Newswire during the opening-night celebration earlier this week at the Kennedy Center. "In New York, I had a lot of stuff going on...a lot of dead weight, a lot of baggage, and I took that into the role."

"I dealt with all of that, and it helped me to survive a lot of things that I was going through," she continued. "It was a touchy situation, but the story, I can relate."

This made the singer a bit hesitant to return to the stage.

"It's a lot of stuff going on in the world," she said, adding, "I don't want to say that I wanted to come back, but I had to just to touch people's lives."

Another highlight of the Kennedy Center production comes in the form of two very special reunions for Fantasia: her former 'American Idol' competitor LaToya London is playing the role of Nettie and Tony Award- nominated powerhouse Felicia P. Fields, who originated the role of Sophia, which Winfrey made famous in the 1985 Academy Award-nominated film, is also part of the cast.

'It's been really great every time I try to do this show," Fields offered. "It has a metamorphosis with Fantasia coming in. It's been more exciting, and we've searched out new things to do. That's the beauty of live theater."

And like her character, Fields isn't biting her tongue about what motivated her to come back. Like Fantasia, she's hoping that her character's story touches the hearts of theater-goers.

"It's been really great, but the piece is so powerful. I enjoy the message and the opportunity to minister to ladies who have been abused and say, 'Hell no.'"

Director Gary Griffin is back at the show's helm, too. For the musical's original ringmaster, Fantasia's return and the new venue are a perfect match. "We all said when we arrived here that it doesn't feel huge [and] there is something warm and embracing about it," Griffin said. "'The Color Purple' evolved with time, and I would say that Fantasia is two years older, and I think her wisdom, her talent, and her artistry have evolved."

After its Washington, D.C., run ends on Aug. 9 at the Kennedy Center's Opera House, 'Color Purple' will play in Atlanta for two weeks, from Sept. 2 -13, ending its national run in Chicago, from Sept.15-27.

After her three-month commitment to the play, the J Records singer plans to focus on her album, which she told BV Newswire she's taking her time to complete. "While I'm doing 'The Color Purple,' nothing should come between this. It takes a lot of dedication."

As previously reported by BV Buzz, Fantasia is also filming a reality show.

Fantasia said Celie's message to her is simple: "Beauty is in the inside. Love your eyes, love your wide nose, big ears and whatever God has given you. She finds that at the end."

And so does the actress who plays her.




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