Which Broadway Shows Have ‘American Idol’ Winner Fantasia Starred In?
Fantasia isn’t your typical American Idol winner. From the moment she stepped foot into the competition, she was a standout and her career following her win has continued to put her in a league of her own.
Despite a few personal troubles that she had to overcome, she’s won Grammy awards, written books, and gives the most electrifying performance you’d like to see. Some of those performances took place on a very different stage – in two Broadway musicals – both of which she received top reviews.
Fantasia completed two runs in ‘The Color Purple’
The soulful singer was awarded the role of a lifetime as the lead character, Celie. Originally a novel by Alice Walker that was later adapted into a film, The Color Purple focuses on the life of African-American women in the poor South in the 1930s as they battle sexism, abuse and their journey to finding their voice.
As a replacement of the previous lead, she appeared in the Oprah Winfrey sponsored New York production from April 2007 to January 2008. Her gutty performance earned her rave reviews and box office ticket sales during her run increased in record-breaking numbers.
She was open about how relating to her character brought out such a stellar performance, with the Los Angeles Times reported her saying, “I put myself in her [Celie] shoes in having [daughter] Zion at such a young age and dropping out of school and being in just bad relationships and disrespected.”
Fantasia was honored with a Theatre World Award, presented to stage newcomers. She performed at the 61st Annual Tony Awards and was lauded as “Broadway’s newest star,” before performing the beloved song, “I Am Here.” The audience erupted into a round of applause and standing ovation at the conclusion of her performance.
All was well until Fantasia began missing performances. According to Broadway.com, she missed 60 shows, leaving theater fans who purchased tickets to see her pissed as they were left to settle for her understudy. She eventually ended nine months earlier than scheduled due to exhaustion.
She opened up to Winfrey in a 2010 interview about how challenging Broadway was for her. “I had never done a Broadway play,” she said. “I wasn’t really prepared for what all comes with it. That’s a lot on Broadway–eight shows a week… I would get very tired, not enough sleep. I was pushing myself.”
She also said that a decline in her health was the reason for her weak attendance record as she’d developed two tumors on her vocal cords during the run.
She had a triumphant comeback when she reprised her role as Celie in 2009 in the Washington, D.C. production of the show.
Fantasia returned to Broadway in 2013 in ‘After Midnight’ for two runs
After Midnight was an ode to the music and dance craze of the Harlem Renaissance. Mirroring the tradition of superstar guests that would perform at old school Cotton Clubs, the musical recruited contemporary artists in limited engagements throughout its run as its stars. The goal of production was to attract a wider audience outside of the typical theater demographic.
They succeeded in their goal when they announced the first lineup set. After Midnight marked Fantasia’s return to the Broadway stage since finishing The Color Purple four years earlier. She was the show’s first headliner and was a perfect fit. Fantasia’s musical background includes southern gospel and jazz styles, which blended perfectly with After Midnight’s infusion in its homage to jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.
Fantasia spoke to Entertainment Weekly during her run about how excited she was to star in such a different genre of a musical, saying:
“Jazz music, the fact that we are doing something like this on Broadway, I feel is much needed and long overdue. Jazz music is a different language—it’s not the same as R&B, it’s not the same as most music that a lot of us listen to, especially our young people, but I feel like it’s what people need to see because it’s where it all started. It’s so elegant, it’s so classy, it’s so sexy, and most of all, it stands for those people who came before us and who went through so much. Music was their way of feeling like they could make it through.”Entertainment Weekly
Just as her first stint on Broadway, critics loved her. A review in the Huffington Post gave Fantasia the utmost praise on her stage presence and how much she exuded the era. They called the overall show a “revue you absolutely musn’t miss.” A Hollywood Reporter review noted that Fantasia “set the bar so high” that it was impossible for them to imagine performers scheduled after her to perform at such a level.
Audiences loved Fantasia so much in After Midnight that she returned for a second run the following Spring.