The church is a staple in Black culture. From the upbeat services to the after service fellowships, religion is core to Black communities. Although these faith institutions are at the center of hope and pride, there can be difficulty in how they exist and what happens in and around them. One version of that story was brought to life with the 1961 hit, “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”
And fam, the classic play has been revived on Broadway, saying, “Hold my purse!” Originally put on by entertainment icon Ossie Davis, the play follows the storied schemes of a Black pastor looking to reclaim his inheritance and win back his church. The revival will stay true to the original story, reimagined through the acting prowess of Tony and Grammy Award winner and Academy and Emmy Award nominee Leslie Odom, Jr., starring in the production as “Purlie Victorious Judson.”
Odom did not come to play with the people. His on-stage performance shows you he is a man of the theater, but he also taps into his inspirational bag and brings forward the same charisma, wit, and charm exuded by Ossie Davis in the prime of his career.
For those who aren’t as familiar, “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” is set in the post-civil rights era, showing the tactics Black people were forced to use to achieve the equity they rightfully deserved.
Although these stories can hit close to home, their comedic relief and inspirational tone bring the audience in to provoke hope, turning lemons into lemonade. Early watcher of the play’s revival, Jerald Butler, doubled down on this truth after he saw the play.
“Beneath the comedy, there is an inspirational message of redemption and resiliency under the thumb of oppression. From what I know, Director Kenny Leon remained true to the vision of Ossie Davis to convey a hilarious but meaningful message about racial inequity. It shows that Davis was far ahead of his time as it pertains to turning pain into laughter,” Butler recalled.
Tony Award-winning Kenny Leon directs the stage play alongside a heavily decorated creative team that will bring together the set, costumes, and lighting. The set design—though simplistic, was awe-inspiring. The seamless transitions between acts solicited audible gasps of wonder from the audience, proving this team offers top-tier vibes at every intersection.
Alongside Odom, the new cast includes the legendary Vanessa Bell Calloway as “Idella Landy.” Billy Eugene Jones as “Gitlow Judson,” Noah Pyzik as “Deputy,” Noah Robbins as “Charlie Cotchipee,” Jay O. Sanders as “Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee,” Heather Alicia Simms as “Missy Judson,” Bill Timoney (Network) as “Sheriff” and Tony Award nominee Kara Young (Cost of Living, Clyde’s) as “Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins.”
The premiere of “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch” marks Odom’s return to the Broadway stage since his captivating and award-winning performance as Aaron Burr in “Hamilton.” While the entire play and cast are why you’ll be there, there is no reason, however, justifying missing out on Odom’s big return.
The Broadway revival opened Wednesday, September 27, 2023, at The Music Box Theatre. And since its opening night, the consensus is clear as critics have raved about its production, becoming an instant NYT Critic’s Pick.
“BLAZING AND HILARIOUS ” – The New York Times, Critic’s Pick
“A COMIC RIOT! THE FUNNIEST SHOW ON BROADWAY!” -THE WRAP
“This play gorgeously uses laughter to bring all races together and it is a beautiful sight to behold!” – New York Amsterdam News
“Laugh out loud funny, joyous, and inspiring” – New York Amsterdam News”
The original play impacted culture in such a way that it featured an audience appearance from Civil Rights Icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the original production’s 100th performance. And with this all-star cast and production team, the Broadway revival hopes to have a similar impact.
This is a Black cultural-historical perspective everyone can learn from and enjoy because Black history is American history. Period! Don’t be the one hearing about it; be the one talking about it. Click here to purchase tickets and learn more about “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch.”