City prepares to welcome three legendary lyricists from the musical the color purple on their visit to South Africa

The City of Joburg is preparing to host legendary songwriters Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray at the Joburg Theatre on Thursday February 15th. 

Image Supplied by City of Johannesburg

The trio have travelled from the United States expressly to see performances of the highly acclaimed South African premiere production The Color Purple that is currently playing in The Nelson Mandela Theatre stage at Joburg Theatre.   

A year ago the trio were together on the stage of the Staples Center in Los Angeles to receive their Grammy for The Color Purple as Best Musical Theatre Album at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. Their visit to watch the South African production is a great accolade to the producers and actors in the production. Their attendance shows that South African producers and actors are of the calibre that will attract international visitors to our beautiful city.

Their visit this week comes at the back of a letter of support already written to the Theatre by Oprah Winfrey endorsing the worldwide interest and enthusiasm that is being shown in the production.

I attended the production on the opening day, and was astounded by the sheer talent that traverses over several genres portrayed by the cast and producer Bernard Jay. I witnessed some tears among the people who had come to watch the opening show, and was not surprised when the cast received a standing ovation at the end of the show.

Brenda Russell has a unique musical perspective, intimate voice and prolific treasure-trove of lyrics that prove that a truly glowing talent only deepens with time.  Composer of the classics Get HereIf Only For One Night and the Grammy-nominated Piano In The Dark, Brenda's songwriting prowess and chameleon-like ability to shift between musical genres and combine styles trumpeted ovations in 2005 with the opening of the Tony Award-winning hit Broadway musical The Color Purple.

Allee Willis is a one-woman creative think-tank.  A multi-disciplinary artist and visionary thinker whose range of imagination and productivity knows no bounds, her success exuberantly defies categorization.  Ms Willis is a Grammy-winning and Emmy- and Tony- nominated composer whose hit songs – including Earth, Wind & Fire's September and Boogie Wonderland, The Pointer Sisters'Neutron Dance, Pet Shop Boys with Dusty Springfield's What Have I Done To Deserve This and The Rembrandts' I'll Be There For You (Theme From Friends) – have sold over 50 million records.  In 2006, Willis' songs were also featured in three of the top grossing films of the year; Happy Feet,Night at the Museum and Babel.  Ms Willis was inducted into The Songwriters Hall of Fame just last week.

Stephen Bray - Working with Madonna, Stephen wrote and produced many of her top-ten recordings, including AngelInto the GroovePapa Don't PreachTrue Blue and Express Yourself.   Performing with Breakfast Club, he earned a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and a top-ten single.  He has composed and produced for multiplatinum artists including The Jets, Gladys Knight and Kylie Minogue.  His film and television projects include Beverly Hills Cop IIWho's That Girl?All About The Benjamins and the theme for PBS's California Connected.  Stephen is developing artists for his Soultone label. He made his Broadway debut with The Color Purple and looks forward to more musical theatre. 

“I am so thrilled to come see The Color Purple in South Africa,” says singer-songwriter- keyboardist Brenda Russell.  “This will be my third time to Joburg. I was delighted to find in my previous concerts in Joburg that I had lots of music fans here. It warmed my heart so much to hear the audiences sing along with me.  They knew my songs and lyrics.  At my last concert I brought my daughter, Lindsay Walker, who sang backup with me.  I was overwhelmed with joy and love. She was amazing!  Now to have The Color Purple performed with an all-South African cast is just fantastic on so many levels.  Returning this time is the most special visit yet.  I’m very proud that our show is being performed in South Africa.  Motherland!”

The book for the musical The Color Purple is written by Marsha Norman, based on the novel written by Alice Walker and the Warner Bros/Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture.

The Color Purple is presented by Joburg Theatre and Bernard Jay on the stage of The Nelson Mandela Theatre at Joburg Theatre, which can sit up to 1000 people.  The season continues until Sunday March 4th, and tickets are from R240.

As the current administration in the City we have committed to revitalising the inner city. The Joburg Theatre and its productions are one of the ways we are inviting our residents to come and enjoy what the City has to offer them in the inner city. It is also one of the ways we are showing investors that our vibrant and diverse city is open for business.

Tickets are still available on 0861 670 670, or people can purchase the tickets online at, or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office.  Theatre patrons can also book online and pay at selected Pick N Pay stores.

The Color Purple in South Africa is presented in association with M-Net, 702, Bona Magazine and RADA.

Issued by Councillor Nonhlanhla Sifumba

Member of the Mayoral Committee for Community Development

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