The well-renowned musical The Colour Purple had immense success in the US with multiple Broadway runs and several national tours. After several appearances in the UK in London, Leicester, and Birmingham, the musical is making a return with its UK tour.
Ahead of The Colour Purple’s stretch at Manchester’s The Lowry, I spoke to Bree Smith, who’s starring as Shug Avery in the touring cast.
Bree said that her desire to be in this show grew from several experiences, such as having seen a friend in the show. She even admitted that “it was one of the first films to make me cry with its journey through pain to the joy at the end”.
The joyousness of the show contributed to her love for the musical. She spoke about the music and its melange of gospel, blues, soul, and jazz. Bree said, “The way it’s orchestrated feels as though it’s there for everyone”. She went on to describe her love of the choreography and movement because of how it displays the community.
Bree described how her character Shug displayed aspects of a strong Black woman, her trauma and her past, noting that she respected how “she puts up shields to show the world what she wants it to see”.
As we enter Black History Month, Bree spoke about the importance of Black representation in TV, film, and theatre, as there isn’t enough representation, especially with roles which don’t specify race. She said, “The industry needs to open it’s eyes more”, using Mary Poppins as an example.
With a fully Black cast, Bree spoke about this rarity in British theatre and “the magic and freshness of an all Black company who have commonalities”. Bree’s previous credits include The Wiz, which she starred in at Hope Mill Theatre. The production had a fully Black cast. She said that it was important as they “shared an understanding of pain and how the industry sees you”.
Glenda (The Wiz) “embodied Beyoncé and all the greats with beautiful songs and gorgeous outfits!”.
As well as The Wiz, she has also starred in West Side Story at the Royal Exchange theatre. Having never performed in the round before, she said she had to adapt to “always being seen”.
Manchester holds a special place in Bree’s heart; she described it as her “second home” and her top UK city (she is currently based in Cheshire).
Bree noted her Manchester roles as two of her favourites so far, with the exception of this role in The Colour Purple, which she said was her favourite by far.
When discussing dream roles, Bree said that she would love to play Felicia in Memphis, if it were ever to return to the UK, as it was the first Broadway show she ever saw. She described it as “an iconic role for a Black woman to play”.
The Colour Purple is at The Lowry from October 11 until 15 and tours the UK until the start of November.