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Heather Headley Back to Broadway this May!


Jennifer Hudson, the Oscar-winning singer making a sultry Broadway debut as the nightclub singer Shug Avery, is planning to leave the cast of “The Color Purple” next month, the show’s producers said Thursday.
Ms. Hudson will be replaced by Heather Headley, a Tony-winning actress who originated two major stage roles for Disney and then, to the dismay of her fans, left Broadway 15 years ago. Ms. Hudson’s final performance will be on May 8, and Ms. Headley’s first will be on May 10.

 

Ms. Hudson’s performance was praised by Ben Brantley, the chief theater critic for The New York Times, who said she “radiates a lush, supple stage presence that is echoed by her velvet voice.”

 

Ms. Headley was a prominent presence on Broadway when she first arrived, originating the role of Nala in “The Lion King,” and then the title role in “Aida,” which won her a Tony for best actress in a musical. “Pretty much everything that’s right about ‘Aida,’ the new Disney cartoon pretending to be a Broadway musical, can be summed up in two words: Heather Headley,” Mr. Brantley wrote in 2000.

 

Heather Headley is to succeed Jennifer Hudson in the role of Shug Avery in “The Color Purple.” She has since been building a career as a recording artist — in 2009 she won a Grammy Award for best contemporary R&B Gospel album. She performed in the London premiere of a musical adaptation of “The Bodyguard,”which had unrealized (thus far) Broadway aspirations. That musical is scheduled to go on a national tour, starring Deborah Cox, beginning at Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey in November. Ms. Headley made one brief return appearance on a Broadway stage, as a guest artist at an Il Divo concert in 2013, and has performed in one musical in the United States, playing the witch in a production of “Into the Woods” at the Muny in St. Louis last summer.

 

“The Color Purple,” which opened on Broadway in December, is a musical adaptation of the Pulitzer-winning 1982 novel by Alice Walker. The show, which was first staged on Broadway in 2005, features music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray and a book by Marsha Norman; John Doyle is the revival’s director.

 

The timing of Ms. Hudson’s departure — six months after she began, in accordance with her contract — is a bit awkward, because although it is after Tony nominees will have been selected and announced, it is before many Tony voters will have cast their ballots. Ms. Hudson would likely be eligible in the best featured actress in a musical category.

 

But she is not the only possible nominee leaving a still-running show before the Tony voting is complete. Jonathan Groff, who has been playing King George in “Hamilton,” is leaving his role on Saturday to begin filming “Mindhunter,” a new television series.

 

Find more information about the show, The Color of Purple here.

By APRIL 7, 2016

A version of this article appears in print on April 8, 2016, on page C2 of the New York edition with the headline: Jennifer Hudson Leaving ‘Color Purple’ in May.