The Little Mermaid comes out at the end of the week, but before we talk about that, let’s take a second to talk about Halle Bailey’s OTHER musical this year, a new adaptation of The Color Purple. It’s the latest in the long adaptation chain of Alice Walker’s 1982 novel, which was first adapted by Steven Spielberg in 1985—giving Whoopi Goldberg her first Oscar nomination—then in the 2000s became a Broadway musical. 


Now, the musical version of The Color Purple has been adapted into a film, directed by Ghanian filmmaker and hip-hop artist Blitz Bazawule, aka Blitz the Ambassador, and poet and playwright Marcus Gardley. Oprah Winfrey, who made her acting debut in Spielberg’s film, is a producer on the new adaptation (along with Spielberg and Quincy Jones). And thus, the loop is closed.

The book and the movie made me cry my eyes out, so even though this trailer features uplifting songs and many joyous moments, I know what is in store. The Color Purple is Warner Bros. Discovery’s big holiday release, and while musicals are inherently crowd pleasers, I do wonder how many people will sign up for being emotionally wrung out during an already stressful, emotional holiday for many. Like, Wonka is also scheduled to drop in December, and while I am very much not here for a musical prequel starring Timothee Chalamet as Twink Willy Wonka, if it’s between the emotionally wrought musical about learning to love oneself and a silly caper about a magic candy man…


Other December competition includes Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom and the untitled Ghostbusters sequel, though, so this could be a very middling December at the theater. I hope Aquaman comes through, but the first film already feels like getting away with something, not really holding my breath for the second to be a repeat of that surprise delight. If anything, The Color Purple has the potential to be the surprise holiday hit of the year, even with the emotional weight of the story. 

Anyway, The Color Purple features a star-studded cast, with Halle Bailey playing the young Nettie opposite Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as the young Celie, and Ciara and Fantasia Barrino as the grown Nettie and Celie, respectively. Fantasia come through! Good to see a first-gen American Idol alum thriving (the first five seasons of American Idol produced legit stars, you can’t name anyone from the last five: discuss). The film also stars Taraji P. Henson as Shug, Danielle Brooks as Sofia, H.E.R. as Squeak, Colman Domingo as Mister, and Corey Hawkins as Harpo. AND it also stars Aunjanue Ellis, Louis Gossett, Jr., David Alan Grier, Deon Cole, Jon Batiste, and Elizabeth Marvel. This cast is incredible. 


And it looks great, as befitting something touted as a “bold new take on a beloved classic”. The color and the light are amazing, and I almost don’t hate that it’s a musical? There’s an inherent fantasy element in musical theater that can open up the interiority of Celie’s perspective that is promising, especially with a powerhouse like Fantasia singing the songs. Let’s say that I am already exhausted by the mere thought of twee Wonka but am intrigued by The Color Purple. And hey, it’s not Cats

Here is Halle Bailey with Melissa McCarthy at the Australian premiere of The Little Mermaid.