Color Purple not so rosy as Mvelase quits over pay

Lerato Mvelase, left, has resigned from The Color Purple. With her is Didintle Khunou who plays the central character Celie./Supplied
Lerato Mvelase, left, has resigned from The Color Purple. With her is Didintle Khunou who plays the central character Celie./Supplied

After an illustrious and critically acclaimed performance, actress Lerato Mvelase has left the musical The Color Purple.

She couldn't reach an agreement with the producers over payment. Mvelase played the role of Shug Avery in the Broadway musical that opened last month at the Joburg Theatre in Braamfontein.

She confirmed to Sowetan that she would not be part of The Color Purple when it returns to the Joburg Theatre in August.

"I left because they could not pay me the money that I feel I am worth. I feel that when you have 23 years of experience, there is a certain fee for you," she said.

Mvelase will be replaced by actress and vocalist Lelo Ramasimong, who has been playing the role of Darlene in the musical.

Ramasimong said she was excited to be elevated to the lead role. She said portraying the role may be daunting, but she believed there was a Shug in every woman.

The stage actress does not believe that it would be a challenge to take over from a talented actress like Mvelase.

"I actually think it is an advantage for me because I watched how Lerato made the role work. I will be able to use some of the qualities to make it work for me."

She added: "Lerato is a phenomenal actress. I am just going to portray the role as truthful as I can."

Director of the show, Janice Honeyman, said: "I'm delighted that we have such a strong performer in Lelo to make her own personal mark as Shug Avery."

Other stars returning to The Color Purple include Aubrey Poo (as Mister), Didintle Khunou (as Celie) and Sebe Leotlela (as Nettie).

The role of glamorous Shug has been portrayed by American Idol finalist and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and then Tony and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holliday on Broadway.

Ramasimong earned some attention when she made it into the top 10 on Idols SA. Her career includes productions such as Little Shop of Horrors, Dreamgirls, African Footprint, Under African Skies, Burn the Floor and Always and Forever: A Tribute to Luther Vandross.

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