Purlie is a musical with a book by Ossie Davis, Phillip Rose and Peter Udell, lyrics by Udell and music by Gary Geld and choreography by Louis Johnson. It is based on Davis’s 1961 play Purlie Victorious, which was later made into the 1963 film Gone Are the Days! and which included many of the original Broadway cast, including Davis, Ruby Dee, Alan Alda, Beah Richards, Godfrey Cambridge and Sorrell Booke.
Purlie is set in an era when Jim Crow laws still were in effect in the American South. Its focus is on the dynamic traveling preacher Purlie Victorious Judson, who returns to his small Georgia town hoping to save Big Bethel, the community’s church, and emancipate the cotton pickers who work on oppressive Ol’ Cap’n Cotchipee’s platation. With the assistance of Lutiebelle Gussie Mae Jenkins, Purlie hopes to pry loose from Cotchipee an inheritance due his long-lost cousin and use the money to achieve his goals. Also playing a part in Purlie’s plans is Cotchipee’s son Charlie, who ultimately proves to be far more fair-minded than his Simon Legree –like father and who saves the church from destruction with an act of defiance that has dire consequences for the tyrannical Cap’n.
Purlie is a musical with a book by Ossie Davis, Phillip Rose and Peter Udell