Big Return: Heather Headley Replacing Jennifer Hudson In “The Color Purple”

Tony Award winner Heather Headley will take over the role of Shug Avery in the Broadway revival of “The Color Purple” when Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson departs the musical on May 8.

In her big return to the Great White Way on May 10, Headley has signed on to “Push Da Button” as the sultry and often risqué blues singer, Shug.

The role of Shug was originated by Margaret Avery in the film adaptation of “The Color Purple.” The role landed Avery an Academy Award nomination in 1985.

Heather Headley

Heather Headley

In the original theatrical production of “The Color Purple,” singer/actress Elisabeth Withers originated the part and earned a Tony Award nomination for her work in 2006.

Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams played the character when the touring cast of “The Color Purple” launched in 2007.

Headley will appear in John Doyle’s repackaged version of “The Color Purple” for a 16-week engagement, departing the show in September.

The Trinidad and Tobago-bred talent has not starred on Broadway since leaving her Tony Award winning role in the Elton John and Tim Rice’s musical “Aida.”

A theater darling, Headley made her Broadway debut in the Disney musical “The Lion King.”

Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery in "The Color Purple"

Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery in “The Color Purple”

Hudson had only signed on for a six-month contract in “The Color Purple,” which is why she is departing in May.

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The acclaimed revival produced by Scott Sanders and Oprah Winfrey has a lot of buzz going into the 2016 Tony Award nominations, but theater critics believe the “American Idol” finalist turned “Dreamgirls” star’s departure from the production during the middle of Tony voting season could compromise any potential recognition.

The Color Purple posterBased on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the revival of “The Color Purple” stars British newcomer Cynthia Erivo (Celie) and “Orange is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks (Sofia) and opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre in New York on Dec. 10, 2015.

In 2002, Headley made her debut in the music business with her CD, “This Is Who I Am.” Four studio albums later, the singer earned a Grammy Award for her third release, “Audience of One;” and is now known for hits like “He Is,” “I Wish I Wasn’t,” “In My Mind,” “Me Time” and her remake of the Lionel Richie classic “Jesus Is Love,” recorded as a duet with Gospel superstar Smokie Norful.

In 2012, the 41-year-old entertainer traveled to the U.K. to originate the role of Rachel Marron in the Broadway adaptation “The Bodyguard” on London’s West End. In 2015, she starred in a limited presentation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Broadway spectacular “Into the Woods” in St. Louis.

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