Jennifer Hudson: ‘American Idol’ Alum Leads Cast Of ‘The Color Purple’ In Broadway Tribute To Prince [Video]

Jennifer Hudson, an Academy Award-, Golden Globe-, and Grammy-winning actress and singer who began her career by placing seventh on the third season of American Idol, led her fellow Broadway cast members of The Color Purple in a stirring Prince tribute Thursday night that enchanted his mourning fans on social media following the death of the artist that morning. The Broadway cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash hit musical Hamilton performed their own memorial to the pop music icon as well.

Jennifer Hudson said, “Today, we lost a legend,” and asked the crowd to join her and her castmates in a brilliant performance of “Purple Rain” that showed off Hudson’s famous and extraordinary vocals, as well as those of her co-star Cynthia Erivo. Jennifer Hudson is a dramatic soprano.

Jennifer Hudson made her Broadway debut in the current revival of The Color Purple in the autumn of 2015. Following her popular turn on American Idol in early 2004, Hudson went on to win the 2007 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White in the 2006 movie Dreamgirls, along with the Golden Globe, the BAFTA, and the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG) Award, among many others that awards season. Despite her supporting role, Jennifer Hudson’s acclaimed performance in Dreamgirls was pinpointed by film critics as the primary reason to see the movie, even by those critics who were lukewarm about the project as a whole.

Jennifer Hudson’s cast wasn’t the only Broadway company to pay their respects to Prince, a unique and gutsy artist who influenced so many others. The aforementioned Hamilton tribute led by the musical’s author and star, 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, was also a big hit on social media. The Daily Beast reports that Miranda performed the opening verse of “Let’s Go Crazy,” originally performed by Prince and the Revolution, before his entire cast joined him in a joyful group dance.

Lin-Manuel Miranda can boast, according to The Daily Beast, that Prince was a definite fan of the universally acclaimed Hamilton. Prince, who by all accounts was in very good health until just a few days before he died, attended a performance of the musical several weeks ago. Known for shyness, Prince declined the invitation to meet Miranda and the cast of Hamilton backstage after the show, instead inviting them to a private concert in Harlem and praising them on Twitter.

Jennifer Hudson shares a love of and a dedication to philanthropy with Prince. Following the tragic murders of Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother, and 7-year-old nephew by her sister’s estranged husband in 2008, Hudson and her family started The Hudson-King Foundation for Families of Slain Victims. Jennifer Hudson and her sister, Julia — the mother of Hudson’s slain nephew, Julian King — throw an annual charity event to celebrate the lives of their lost loved ones. The Julian D. King Gift supplies thousands of knapsacks filled with school supplies to needy children every year on Julian King’s birthday, August 14. The Jennifer Hudson family released a statement about the goals of their foundation in October 2008.

“The specific purpose of the Foundation is to care for the needs of families who have lost relatives to a violent crime. This encompasses their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter as well as grief counseling.”

Prince was essential to the music world and to paving the way for artists of color like Jennifer Hudson — and for gender variant artists — to be fearless, and his philanthropy was dedicated to seeing American communities of color thrive. Not only did he quietly donate money to the family of Trayvon Martin, but Prince also gave, anonymously and without fanfare, $12 million to the Louisville Free Library in 2001. This donation was specifically to maintain and protect the Western Branch Library in Louisville, Kentucky — the first full-service library for African-Americans in the United States. He also donated $1 million to the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City, and played a surprise charity concert for local charities in Baltimore last year. He vocally supported the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Reverend Al Sharpton spoke to the New York Daily News on Thursday about Prince and his dedication to charity and community, stating that he wanted to avoid partisan politics and make sure that inner-city youths had access to the newest technology. He also said that Prince arranged for the family of Eric Garner, a victim of police brutality in New York City, to attend one of his concerts.

Jennifer Hudson and Lin-Manuel Miranda are just two of the successful artists who poured their hearts out publicly on Thursday and Friday not just in tribute to Prince’s artistry, but also in tribute to his generosity of spirit.

[Image courtesy of Brad Barket/Getty Images]

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