Introducing the Color Purple’s Celie and Shug Avery
In August 2016, director Janice Honeyman, executive producer Bernard Jay and musical director Rowan Bakker embarked on a search for the two women who would be chosen to play the lead roles of Celie and Shug Avery in the Tony Award winning musical The Color Purple, to be staged for the first time in South Africa in 2018 and with an all-South African cast.
After gruelling auditions in Cape Town, Pretoria and Joburg of over 250 performers, the team finally found South Africa’s answers for the two currently most coveted female roles in musical theatre. Today, we are excited to reveal the two South African actresses who will be playing these roles in the first major international production of The Color Purple since the Broadway revival.
At a media junket, held at Joburg Theatre, it was revealed that Didintle Khunou will be playing the role of Celie – a caring and gentle girl whose resilience is truly miraculous and ultimately a tribute to humankind – and Molebatsi Lekgetha will be playing the role of Shug Avery – the archetypal blues woman, with her earthy wisdom and singer lifestyle.
Didintle Khunou, 25, is a Wits School of Arts graduate, having obtained a BA Honours Degree in Dramatic Arts. She has made many television appearances, the most recent being the second season of SABC2’s popular Sotho drama series Mamello, directed by SAFTA award-winning director Zuko Nodada.
Born and raised in Pretoria, Molebatsi Lekgetha, 33, began exploring her talent as a performer in primary school. Her love and passion for the arts directed her to study and complete a BA (Drama) Degree at the University of Pretoria. She immediately landed a lead role in Ain’t Misbehavin’ at the Market Theatre, for which she received a Naledi Award Nomination for Best Performance By A Newcomer. .
Didintle and Molebatsi join a talented all South African cast, which features Zane Gillion, Sebe Leotlela (as Nettie), Dolly Louw, Andile Magxaki, Yamikani Mahaka-Phiri (as Harpo), Venolia Manale, Namisa Mdlalose, Phumi Mncayi, Neo Motaung (as Sofia), Tshepo Ncokoane, Thokozani Nzima, Funeka Peppeta, Aubrey Poo (as Mister), Senzesihle Radebe, Lelo Ramasimong, Zolani Shangase, Ayanda Sibisi and Lebo Toko.
The director is Janice Honeyman, musical director Rowan Bakker, production designer Sarah Roberts, lighting designer Mannie Manim and The Color Purple is produced by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay in association with MNet and 702.
The Color Purple is based upon the 1982 novel written by Alice Walker and the 1985 Warner Bros/Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture, directed by Steven Spielberg. The musical’s book is by Marsha Norman and the music and lyrics are by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. The musical The Color Purple was originally produced on Broadway in 2005 by Oprah Winfrey, Scott Sanders, Roy Furman and Quincy Jones, receiving eleven 2006 Tony Award nominations. The recent Broadway revival enjoyed tremendous success, boosted by its major Tony Award wins in 2016 and Grammy Award in 2017.
The musical will have preview performances in The Mandela at Joburg Theatre from January 31st 2018, with its official opening night on Sunday February 4th and running until Sunday March 4th 2018. Tickets from R240 are already on sale: telephone 0861 670 670, go online at www.joburgtheatre.com or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Theatre patrons can also book online and pay at selected Pick N Pay stores.