Michelle Williams of the R&B group Destiny’s Child is joining the Chicago production of “The Color Purple,” the producers announced Tuesday.Williams will play the role of Shug Avery, a sexy blues singer.The stage version of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel will open in Chicago on April 17. It’s still playing on Broadway.Several of the stars of the New York production – including Jeannette Bayardelle, who plays the lead character of Celie, and Felicia P. Fields, who received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of the feisty Sofia – are joining the tour in Chicago.
Producer Scott Sanders said casting Williams as Shug Avery seemed like a natural choice because Shug is the one character in the musical who has “seen the world.”
“I’ve always liked the idea of finding an actress for that role that really brings that sort of otherworldly sensibility,” he said. “And so Michelle, living outside the Broadway community, but yet having the capabilities and the chops to both sing and act it, we just thought was great.”
Williams previously performed the title role in “Aida” on Broadway. She’s from Rockford – about 80 miles west of Chicago – and said she welcomes the opportunity to perform close to her family and friends.
“This is just a dream come true,” Williams said. “I could not pass up the opportunity to do ‘The Color Purple.’ To have the privilege of even auditioning was an honor for me.”
Destiny’s Child, a trio that also featured Beyonce Knowles and Kelly Rowland, disbanded in 2005 to pursue solo careers.
One of the musical’s producers is Oprah Winfrey, who played the part of Sofia in the 1985 film that also starred Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover.