“The Color Purple” Musical Star Fired for Her Homophobic Comments

British actress Seyi Omooba was set to play the show's queer lead.

Purple is not her color.

British performer Seyi Omooba has been let go from an upcoming U.K. production of The Color Purple, BroadwayWorld reports, amid backlash on social media to her homophobic Facebook post.

Omooba, who has appeared in London productions of musicals such as Ragtime and Hadestown, was set to lead the Leicester and Birmingham co-production of The Color Purple as Celie, a poor young woman who has a sexual awakening with another woman while learning to triumph over great adversity.

In her Bible-quoting 2014 Facebook post, which recently resurfaced, Omooba stated, “I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right.”

Aaron Lee Lambert, who stars in Hamilton on London’s West End, reposted Omooba’s message last week, demanding, “Do you still stand by this post? Or are you happy to remain a hypocrite? Seeing as you’ve now been announced to be playing an LGBTQ character, I think you owe your LGBTQ peers an explanation. Immediately.”

Leicester’s Curve Theatre and the Birmingham Hippodrome released an official statement this week noting that Omooba’s resurfaced comments “have caused significant and widely expressed concerns both on social media and in the wider press.”

“Following careful reflection it has been decided that Seyi will no longer be involved with the production,” the statement continues. “This decision was supported by the Authors and Theatrical Rights Worldwide.”

“The audition process, as ever, was conducted professionally and rigorously, led by an exceptional casting director with actors who are evaluated on what they present in the audition room. We do not operate a social media screening process in the casting of actors.”

No word yet on who will replace Omooba as Celie this summer. Under the direction of Tinuke Craig, Joanna Francis stars as nightclub singer Shug Avery, Celie’s love interest.

The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel about black women in the South, was first adapted into Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated 1985 film. The decades-spanning tale was later adapted into the hit stage musical that opened on Broadway in 2005 and was revived in 2016.

Featuring a book by Marsha Norman and a score by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, the Tony Award-winning musical has also toured and grossed more than $350 million worldwide.

Spielberg’s film starred Whoopi Goldberg and Margaret Avery, who earned Oscar nominations for their performances as Celie and Shug, respectively. While the film famously softened the novel’s lesbian relationship, the musical embraced it; in fact, The Color Purple is considered the first Broadway musical with a lesbian protagonist and the first to depict a same-sex romance between two women of color.

LaChanze earned a Tony for her performance as Celie in the 2005 premiere, and Cynthia Erivo also took home the award as Celie in the revival. Shug was memorably played in the revival by Jennifer Hudson, Heather Headley, and Jennifer Holliday.

Warner Bros. is currently developing a big-screen adaptation of the stage musical.
 

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