Blair Underwood

New York City Center Encores! Artistic Director Jack Viertel and Music Director Rob Fisher have announced the cast for Purlie, at the New Yprk City Center's Main Stage from the 31 Mar - 3 Apr 2005

Purlie will star Blair Underwood (Purlie), Tony Award-winner Anika Noni Rose (Lutiebelle), Tony Award-winner Lillias White (Missy), Tony Award-winner John Cullum ('Ol Cap'n') and the actor/comedian Doug E. Doug (Gitlow) in principal roles, and will also include Lynda Gravatt and Christopher Duva.

With a book by Ossie Davis, Philip Rose and Peter Udell, music by Gary Geld and lyrics by Peter Udell, and a concert adaptation by David Ives, Purlie is the second offering of the 2005 New York City Center Encores! Season.

Mr. Viertel also announced that this presentation would be dedicated to the memory of Ossie Davis, who passed away in February.

Based on Ossie Davis' 1961 play, 'Purlie Victorious', Purlie won both Tony and Grammy Awards when it debuted at the Broadway Theatre on March 15, 1970 where it played for 688 performances.

Set in the Jim Crow South, Purlie tells the story of an idealistic preacher who decides to bring freedom to the townsfolk by inventing an elaborate, ingenious and hilarious scheme to reclaim the people's rights.

A fusion of pop, rhythm and blues and Broadway music, Purlie was the first time a show and score fully represented a black audience and ushered in the era of the black musical that was populated by shows like 'The Wiz', 'Ain't Supposed to Die A Natural Death', 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' and 'Your Arms Too Short to Box With God'. The original production starred Cleavon Little as Purlie, Melba Moore as Lutiebelle and Sherman Hemsley as Gitlow.

Purlie was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Musical; with wins for Little and Moore for Best Actor and Featured Actor, respectively. The original production was directed by Philip Rose (who also produced 'Purlie Victorious' on Broadway). The musical includes such popular songs as "I Got Love," "Walk Him Up The Stairs" and "Down Home".

Since 1994, NEW YORK CITY CENTER ENCORES! has celebrated the rarely heard works of America's most important composers and lyricists. Conceived as "concert versions," each ENCORES! season gives three scores the chance to be heard as originally intended by their creators.

Purlie is the second musical in NY City Center 2005 Encores!. The first musical was 'A Tree Grows in Brooklyn', which played from the 10 - 13 Feb and starred Kristin Chenoweth, and the third musical will be The Apple Tree, which will also star Kristin Chenoweth and plays from the 12 - 16 May

(Read Polly Wittenberg's review of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn).

Originally published on

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