Later that year, she released her debut disc “Free Yourself,” which was certified platinum.
Several tours, performances, and television guest appearances later, Fantasia released her second disc in 2006 and on the heels of that release, scored the role of Celie in the Broadway musical “The Color Purple” based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker.
The Great White Way rookie was scheduled for a six-month engagement that was extended thanks to a huge box-office response to her casting. However, the “AI” alum started missing performances that caused the show’s producers to refund tens of thousands of dollars.
But Fantasia is back. And she’s answering questions about her Broadway burnout and talking about the new “The Color Purple” tour, which stops off in LA this Wednesday, February 10 at the Pantages Theater (in Hollywood) until Feb 28.
“My first go ’round with ‘The Color Purple’ for that first year was an experience of a lifetime,” she reflected. “There were a lot of things that I learned; discipline, commitment and a whole lot of sacrifice. You’re on the stage every day, eight shows a week. Every day is like a brand new show. You can’t just say, ‘Tuesday I’m going to give my all, but Wednesday I’m just going to go out there and give what I got.’ You’ve have to get out there every day and give a full performance to a brand new crowd.”
“The Color Purple” was Fantasia’s very first Broadway show. Period. She’d never seen one and was suddenly cast in one. She told EUR’s Lee Bailey that she had no warning on how tough Broadway really is.
“It was tough. It was something very new to me. No one prepared me or warned me or let me know how grueling it was going to be,” she said. “They just saw something in me and put me in rehearsals for two weeks and threw me out there on that stage and said, ‘When the lights come on and the curtain goes up, you know what to do.'”
Fantasia recalled that her first five months on the show seemed to go quite smoothly, but it was month 6 – her original gig end – that she began to wear down and found herself exhausted by the traumatic story of her character’s life coupled with ordeals in her own.
“At the sixth month I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ Miss Celie’s life wasn’t all peaches n’ cream; she goes through a lot of things. In order to play the part, I had to step into her shoes, and what began to happen is that I didn’t know how to release the character and it was strange to me.”
“I felt like it was a heavy load dealing with me and Celie,” she continued. “She became a friend of mine. She became someone very special to me.”
So Fantasia left the show to get her life together, but came back because she felt she owed it to people who came to the show and missed her, but there was another reason for her sabbatical from the production. No one, including Fantasia herself, knew that at the end of her initial stint on ‘The Color Purple,’ she had two tumors on her vocal chords.
Upon leaving the production, Fantasia did a performance at Clive Davis’ Grammy party of the song “I’m Here,” a favorite of “The Color Purple” musical.
“After that I wanted to go to the doctor,” she said. “I don’t like the doctor. I’m scared of the doctor. So if you hear me say I want to go to the doctor, I don’t feel well.
Fantasia and her doctor discovered that she had two tumors, and that the tumors probably played a role in her fatigue doing the show. She, nor her management, really made a statement about her illness, meanwhile, reports were flying that the young star was irresponsible or too immature to handle a Broadway role.
“If I would have had a publicist or the right management or just someone to say, ‘She’s not feeling well,’ or ‘She’s in the hospital,’ Fantasia said of the situation would have been handled a little better. “The doctor basically explained to me that the tumors were making me tired.”
Even on her recent appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she was asked quite directly about her first departure. Fantasia’s doctor came on the show, too to talk about how she had tumors that could have been cancerous or even taken away her voice.
“So I needed to go back and finish what I started,” she said of her return to the show. “And now that Fantasia’s life is better I can get out on that stage and carry Celie’s burdens, her emotional stuff without feeling like when I’m done with her, now I have to go deal with my stuff. Things have gotten so much better for me.”
As we stated, Fantasia Barrino is currently reprising the role of Celie in Los Angeles as “The Color Purple” tour is scheduled there from February 10-28. For ticket info, go here.
Look for more on Fantasia in Part 2 when she discusses her spoiled brother, her family and her VH1 TV show.