Lucky Fans Get an Exclusive Preview of the World’s First ‘Purple Rain’ Musical at Celebration 2024

“I’m trying to get you hyped and excited,” theater director Lileana Blain-Cruz told an eager audience at the Minnesota State Theatre in Minneapolis on Saturday, June 22. Known for her work on visually stunning productions like John Adams’ El Niño at the New York Metropolitan Opera, Blain-Cruz now faces a passionate and discerning crowd – Prince fans.

As part of the five-day Celebration 2024 event in Prince’s hometown, fans were given the first public preview of the upcoming stage musical adaptation of Prince’s Purple Rain film. Blain-Cruz, dressed in a striking purple blazer, engaged with the audience throughout the event, demonstrating her enthusiasm for the project.

Joining her for a panel discussion and preview of three stage numbers were book writer Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, who recently won a Tony for Appropriate; music director Jason Michael Webb, known for his work on MJ The Musical; and Bobby Z., drummer for The Revolution, who recently joined the production as a music adviser alongside Morris Hayes, another Prince associate. Tony-winning producer Orin Wolf also participated.

“This is not Hamilton,” Jacobs-Jenkins joked, reassuring the audience that the musical will stay true to the 1984 film’s screenplay by Albert Magnoli and William Blinn. He plans to further develop the character of Apollonia and adjust the pacing to fit the stage format. “A play is a play, and a movie is a movie,” he said.

Blain-Cruz is determined to bring Prince’s iconic motorcycle to the stage, despite some limitations. “I can’t get a Lake Minnetonka that isn’t actually Lake Minnetonka on stage,” she joked, but she promised to capture the grandeur of the Purple Rain film. Bobby Z. added that the musical will be both a tragedy and a triumph, much like an opera.

During the event, attendees saw performances by actors portraying Morris Day and Jerome Benton, who energized the crowd with renditions of The Time’s “Jungle Love” and “777-9311.” Morris Day himself later performed a set of The Time classics.

Jason Michael Webb, who has extensive experience with musical legacies, including Michael Jackson’s, emphasized his commitment to honoring Prince’s work. He introduced Rachel Webb as Apollonia for a duet of “Take Me With U”, presenting a fresh take on the song before building to a full-band performance. This approach showcased the versatility of Prince’s music.

The musical will feature more than just the nine songs from the Purple Rain soundtrack. The production team plans to incorporate tracks from Prince’s extensive catalog, including songs not in the film. Rachel Webb performed “The Glamorous Life” as Vanity 6, even though the song was originally performed by Sheila E., illustrating the team’s creative approach.

With plans for a Broadway run following its debut in Minneapolis, the production team is setting high expectations. They aim to reimagine Prince’s work for the stage, ensuring his diverse catalog reaches a broad audience. As they prepare for the musical’s launch, fans can look forward to a thoughtful and innovative tribute to the legendary artist.