Fantasia -- THE COLOR PURPLE in Chicago
Posted by: BroadwayTonyJ 08:17 pm EDT 06/17/19
In reply to: re: "when she does show up for work" - bway1430 01:52 am EDT 06/17/19

When the 2nd national tour hit Chicago in Sept., '09, Fantasia missed more than half the performances of the first week due (I believe) to a combination of illness and exhaustion. There were reports on the nightly news that fights and even mini-riots were breaking out at the theater, which was not in the downtown area but instead on the notorious South Side. Families had been driving in from Iowa and Wisconsin to see Fantasia and there was a lot of disappointment because of her absences.

When I got to the theater on Sun. evening (9/06/09), there was conflicting information as to whether she would be performing. I was sitting in the mezzanine and playbills were not being handed out on that level. I walked down to the main floor and politely asked the usher for a playbill, but she refused to give me one. When I politely asked to see the house manager, she shoved one in my face and added a racial epithet. Cognizant of the neighborhood I was in, I thanked her and returned to my seat.

Although the playbill contained a slip stating "the role of CELIE will be played by Phyre Hawkins", Fantasia did indeed go on that evening and gave a performance that was worth all the tribulation that preceded it. After the show I returned to the main floor to pick up an additional one for my partner (who is African-American and a fan of Fantasia), but (unbelievably) there were none on the floor. Fortunately I was able to locate an attendant (a very nice lady, this time) who happily took me to a storage closet, handed me a brand new playbill, and warmly added "Thanks for coming. I'm glad you enjoyed the show."

The next day it was announced that the remaining performances were cancelled. Shortly thereafter Oprah and Fantasia appeared on a local talk/news show (possibly Phil Ponce's and most likely by order of Richie Daley) to offer a combination of apologies and explanations to the Chicago community. This was not the same appearance that Fantasia made on Oprah's own show a year later when she talked about her absences on Broadway due to tumors on her vocal chords.

It was hard not to feel compassion for Fantasia, who seemed so young, vulnerable, and overwhelmed by the situation she found herself in.

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