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The inspiring and enduring "The Color Purple" has
impacted pop culture through a variety of mediums,
starting with the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by
Alice Walker, followed by the Steven Spielberg film.
However the classic tale is earning yet another notch
in its belt thanks to a stage play that debuted on
Broadway in late 2006 and is currently on a national
tour. Thanks to an all-star line-up of performers
(including Destiny's Child diva Michelle Williams and
"American Idol" alum LaToya London) along with
impressive behind the scenes credits (producers
include Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones) its already
reeled in eleven Tony Award nominations, including
"Best Musical." But no matter how much hype or star
power is pumped into the record breaking run, the
plot's emotional portrayal of a young African American
girl experiencing a variety of hardships in the early
1900s remains at the forefront. Show co-star London
(who plays Nettie, the sister of main character Celie)
checked in with Livewire's Andy Argyrakis to talk
about that powerful premise, its personal impact on
her life and a season three "Idol" run alongside
Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson.
Livewire: How does it feel to have so much anticipation mounting surrounding this show?
London: It's exciting because I'm part of something that's big and so many people are waiting to see it. Just to be a part of it feels really good and it's a great production. I understand why they're waiting in line because I'm a fan myself!
Livewire: What were your initial impressions of "The Color Purple" prior to being a member of the cast?
London: My first introduction was the book when I was little. It was one of those mature kind of books my friends and I would find in the adult section and read. I really didn't understand the whole story then, but I saw movie and fell in love with it. Now that I'm older, I've fallen in love with it even more.
Livewire: What types of preparations should an attendee make before catching the musical?
London: If you watch the movie, you'll know what's going on in two hours. But if you can spare a good week reading the book, you'll get a more in-depth version of the story. Books are always the best way to get the full story and know what's going on.
Livewire: Tell me about the story itself for those who may not have already read the book or seen the movie.
London: The story is about a young girl in the south right after slavery going into times when there was still prejudice around and plantations. She grew up in that era and had several hardships- she went through molestation, not knowing herself and loosing people in her life, like her sister who is close to her age. But through those struggles, growing up and the new people that are introduced in her life, she finds herself, and in the end, also finds her sister again. It's a story about triumph and redemption that hits close to home because so many people have been through similar situations- maybe not as bad, but there's still so much to relate to.
Livewire: How did you land your role?
London: I went out and auditioned for the role of Nettie because acting is always something I've wanted to get into and this was a great opportunity to try and land that role. So I went out for it, gave it my all and I landed it.
Livewire: In what ways do you identify with your character?
London: She's very strong young girl who's younger than Celie and more protected than her. But they give each other strength and they both share the ability to endure their own hardships and overcome obstacles. Nettie's adventurous, wants to get out in world and explore and she also wants to be a teacher. I'm kind of same way. I'm very nurturing and I love to show someone how to do something. I'm a helper and I also seek adventure. And once again going back to part about being strong, acting is not easy, which is something that helps me channel Nettie and relate to her in real life.
Livewire: What was the transition like for you from singing to acting?
London: I started singing back when I was seven, so I've since overcome stage fright. All of those experiences definitely helped me for where I am now and I'm ready. I'm used to the stage and being in front of people. That I have down, but this is a new realm I'm stepping into. I was born a singer and eventually I developed performance. I think acting is one of those things I have to develop as well. For me it's something I want to get better at. I'm not sure if I was born this way, but I'm definitely catching on to it and I believe I can do it.
Livewire: How have you hit it off with Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child?
London: We just hit it off honestly as people and would have even without Destiny's Child and "American Idol." We're kindred spirits in the fact that we both come from singing backgrounds and we've become girlfriendish. I was a fan of Destiny's Child and Michelle has definitely came into this show and stepped up to the plate.
Livewire: What's your take on being referred to as one of the "Three Divas" on "American Idol"?
London: It was a little weird at first when they were calling me, Fantasia and Jennifer the "Three Divas." We weren't really amateurs because we all had reached a professional level, but at that time we were just stepping into that level of success. Plus we were only in our twenties, so being called a diva felt a little weird and premature. I'm not sure if we are divas, but now I accept it and it's really cute. I guess you could call us the "Three Young Divas."
Livewire: Have you been able to stay in touch with them?
London: The three of us actually do keep in touch and see what each other is up to and we're very supportive of one another. We're like sisters and there's a lot we've been through together. And we're so happy for Jennifer right now as she's worked so hard and seen her dreams come true with the whole success of "Dreamgirls." Because I know her, I can share in that celebration and her getting an Oscar is inspirational for me.
Livewire: What are your plans for future solo recording outside of "The Color Purple" cast?
London: Looking back on my first CD in hindsight, I'm just proud of the overall package. But for the second album, I want to dig even deeper as an artist and right now I'm just doing a lot of creating outside the studio. There are no plans for a release anytime soon because I want to get the right project together first and then have plans with it. Right now I want to focus on the task at hand in Chicago, but I'm always thinking of melodies and staying creative.
LaToya London appears with "The Color Purple" at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago through Sunday, July 22. For additional information, log onto www.broadwayinchicago.com.