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Roxbury R&B artist Lovely Hoffman lead in SpeakEasy’s ‘Color Purple’ Musical

Kassmin Williams | 12/31/2013, 8:29 a.m.
When Roxbury native Lovely Hoffman walked into the first audition for the upcoming musical “The Color Purple” back in June, ...
Aubin Wise and Lovely Hoffman. (Photo courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company) Aubin Wise and Lovely Hoffman. (Photo courtesy of SpeakEasy Stage Company)

When Roxbury native Lovely Hoffman walked into the first audition for the upcoming musical “The Color Purple” back in June, she went in without any expectations for the role she would play.

The contemporary R&B artist said she was “taken aback” when she landed the main role as Celie, a young African-American woman living in rural Georgia in the early 1900s, who overcomes great odds to discover her voice.

The SpeakEasy Stage Company production will be in Boston from Jan. 10 to Feb. 8 at the Virginia Wimberly Theatre in the Stanford Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts.

“It’s a very moving musical. It’s a story about courage, strength and resilience and I think it’s a story that’s a timeless story,” Hoffman said.

While landing the role of Celie wasn’t Hoffman’s main objective, it becomes clear that Hoffman and Celie have a connection.

Hoffman describes Celie as someone who is abused at the beginning of the story, and someone who struggled to learn her self-worth. By the end of the story, she discovers her worth and establishes herself as a businessperson.

Hoffman said she underwent a transformation of her own growing up, making it easier for her to relate to Celie.

“For someone who has gone through what [Celie] has gone through, it is easy for them to give up. But she has not,” Hoffman said. “She’s a very faithful person. It’s a spiritual journey that Celie makes and those are the things that connect me with her.”

Hoffman highlighted two portions of the musical in particular that she could relate to: a conversation Celie had about God and Celie’s sister Nettie’s trip to Africa.

In one scene, Celie is having a conversation with another character Shug Avery, played by Crystin Gilmore, about what God looks like.

Celie described God as a white man with blue eyes and Shug corrects her.

“Shug Avery has to correct and recreate [the image of God for Celie] and help Celie understand that the way God has been given to her is not what God looks like,” Hoffman said, and noted that she had a similar struggle as the daughter of a minister.

Hoffman, who has visited Africa multiple times and whose father is from Liberia, also identified with Nettie’s trips to Liberia and Senegal, she said.

As Nettie, played by Aubin Wise, tells Celie about her trip to Liberia as a missionary, Hoffman connects it with the stories her father told her about his experience with and influence from missionaries in Liberia.

“There are a lot of things that helped build Celie up as a person, and those are the things that impact her, and it’s the same for me,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman wears many hats, including R&B singer, sixth grade geography teacher, and member of City Life Vida Urbana — a grassroots organization in Jamaica Plain focused on affordable housing and tenant rights.

As a contemporary R&B artist, Hoffman has toured with Grammy Award-winning artist T-Pain and been an opening act for R&B artists Ne-yo and Dennis Edwards of The Temptations.

As a person who is involved in the city in many ways, Hoffman expressed the importance of having “The Color Purple” musical in Boston.

“I think it’s going to be excellent for Boston because, when you look at the musicals that are usually in Boston, they don’t have this type of spirituality and uplifting feeling, in my opinion,” Hoffman said. “I think the audience is going to like it. I think they’re going to be moved by the music and I think they’re going to be inspired by the show.”

Other cast members include Anich D’Jae as Squeak, Jared Dixon as Harpo, Valerie Houston as Sofia and Maurice Emmanuel Parent as Mister.

Tickets for the show start at $25 and can be purchased by calling 617-933-8600 or visiting SpeakEasyStage.com.