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Sun, 03.15.1970

Purlie (the musical) Debuts

*On this date in 1970, Purlie was first performed on stage. Purlie was a musical with a book by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose, and Peter Udell, lyrics by Udell, and music by Gary Geld.

It is based on Davis's 1961 play Purlie Victorious, which became the 1963 film Gone Are the Days!  The cast included Cleavon Little, John Heffernan, Melba Moore, and C. David Colson, with Sherman HemsleyLinda Hopkins, Novella Nelson, and Helen Martin in supporting roles. Robert Guillaume replaced Little later in the run. Johnson's choreography was nominated for a Tony Award. Ampex Records released the first edition of the original cast recording.

After two previews, a Broadway revival opened on December 27, 1972, at the Billy Rose Theatre, which ran for 14 performances. Guillaume and Hemsley reprised their original roles and included many of the original Broadway cast, including Davis, Ruby Dee, Alan Alda, Beah RichardsGodfrey Cambridge, and Sorrell Booke.  Purlie takes place in an era of Jim Crow laws in the American South. Its focus is on the dynamic traveling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson, who returns to his small Georgia town hoping to save Big Bethel, the community's church, and emancipate the cotton pickers who work on oppressive Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee's plantation.

Its lifespan was: 1971 U.S. tour, 1972 Broadway revival, 1975 2nd U.S. tour, 1981 U.S. Television, 2004 London fringe festival, 2005 Encores!

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