Fantasia debuts on Broadway in The Color Purple having sold $6 million in tickets

Fantasia makes her Broadway debut as Celie in The Color Purple tonight, the first American Idol winner to take the stage in New York. (Other finalists and contestants have appeared there before.)

The play’s web site now says “starring Fantasia” in type almost as big as the show’s title, and that’s for good reason: she’s a huge box office draw.

Her casting brought $6 million “into the box office of the hit Oprah Winfrey-produced musical since Feb. 22, when it was announced that the ‘American Idol’ winner would join the show,” according to the New York Daily News. The show’s producer, Scott Sanders, says, “I wasn’t sure how immediate the response would be. But I was expecting that Fantasia was going to kick things up.”

Fantasia’s rhearsal time was cut short by strep throat. “I’m freaking out [right now] — you just can’t see it. It’s a lot of responsibility to be in a show that’s been running two years now, and everybody else had a chance to get comfortable in their parts — Miss LaChanze really put her stamp on it. So here I have to come out there and just carry the show. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s different from getting out there and just singing, because I can do that all day long,” Fantasia tells MTV News.

Fantasia adds, “When Oprah came to me and said, ‘We think you’re Celie,’ I was like, ‘Me?’ You think I’m Celie? You never saw me play the part.’ And she was like, ‘When we look at your story and the things you talk about, we think you’re our Celie.’ When I watched the movie growing up, I thought Shug Avery was the bomb. But I always like to say, when I sing songs, I can’t sing anything I can’t relate to. And I relate to Miss Celie. She went through a lot of things I went through, but she came out a strong woman. And so did I.”

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