Allee Willis – Broadway Press Releases


In April, Willis became the first woman, and only one of 5 composers ever, to have written music for 2 shows opening on Broadway in the same season

Los Angeles, CA, May 16, 2006: Los Angeles-based multi-media artist Allee Willis–a GRAMMY®-winning songwriter whose work has sold well over 50 million records–makes major news on the east coast this week with a Tony® Award nomination for her work on the hit Broadway musical The Color Purple.  The nod was in the category “Best Original Score (Music and/or Lyrics) Written for the Theatre,” and recognizes music & lyrics Willis composed and wrote in collaboration with Brenda Russell and Steven Bray. The honor was one of eleven nominations the attendance record-breaking show received, including “Best Musical,” “Best Book of a Musical” (written by Pulitzer Prize winner Marsha Norman), and “Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical” for LaChanze’s star turn as Celie.

Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Color Purple opened at NYC’s Broadway Theatre on December 2, 2005, and has been a sell-out ever since, with a national touring company production already announced.

The bulk of their work was done in the studio in Willis’ L.A. area home, famous for the themed A-list events she’s orchestrated there over the years, and for its reputation as “the house of atomic kitsch,” so-called because of the world-class collection of pop culture artifacts it showcases. Willis was raised in Detroit, where she was vastly influenced by Motown and golden era soul music, and one of her most notable collections is of African-American ephemera from the mid to late 20th century. Ms. Willis has said that many of the objects helped inspire her, Bray and Russell during creation, and notes that when Alice Walker visited the studio, she used a church fan from Willis’ collection that was just like the one she used growing up.

Willis, Russell and Bray’s final score for The Color Purple makes the Broadway production as creatively transformational in its own way as the Steven Spielberg-directed film of the property was from Walker’s original novel. The show’s lead producer Oprah Winfrey, who was Oscar-nominated for her role in the movie, said, “To present this Broadway production is a dream come true and a full circle moment for me.” It has proven to be one of the major hits of the season.

Allee Willis also made Broadway history this spring by becoming the first woman ever to have written music for two shows opening on the Great White Way in the same season, a feat achieved by only four other people total: Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, George Gershwin and Marvin Hamlisch. Willis has accomplished it with The Color Purple and Hot Feet, the Earth, Wind & Fire-themed “jukebox” musical that opened at the Hilton Theatre on April 30. Willis has penned numerous smash hits for EWF, and among her compositions spotlighted in Hot Feet are “September,” “Boogie Wonderland” and “In The Stone.”

Prior to her Tony-nominated score for The Color Purple, Allee Willis’ previous brush with Broadway was in the mid-1970s, when she was a hat check girl at the fabled Manhattan nightspots Catch A Rising Star and Reno Sweeney’s. Willis has said it was “an amazing Broadway education,” and now, having gone from watching the stars unwind after the show to helping them make magic during it, she has indeed graduated with honors.