Star of the Week: Danielle Brooks makes her Broadway debut one to remember

danielle brooks

It’s no easy feat to earn a Tony nod for one’s Broadway debut, but Danielle Brooks has managed to do just that. It’s difficult to believe that Brooks, powerhouse of sass and strength that she is, is just 26 years old. She displays wisdom and maturity beyond her years as Sofia in The Color Purple, for which she has been rightfully nominated for the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical.

A native of Georgia who grew up in the church made her stage debut in the nativity play at her local church, Brooks went on to study at the prestigious Juilliard School. Just two years after graduating, she joined the cast of the extremely popular Netflix original series Orange is the New Black, the fourth season of which will premiere on June 17.

As her fan-favorite character Taystee, Brooks plays best friends with her former Juilliard classmate and real-life friend Samira Wiley. This role has afforded Brooks plenty of practice at playing with her viewers’ emotions, and she clearly has a natural aptitude for this ability. She switches between scenes of joy and sorrow with the ease of a light switch. When she’s portraying Taystee as her normal, upbeat self, her infectious laughter and sense of humor can’t be missed. When the show delves into Taystee’s more sensitive side, Brooks is equally skilled at knowing precisely which notes of sadness and disappointment to hit.

She continues to hone her craft in The Color Purple, and she does so with the help of her truly golden pipes. Sofia is a fiery force to be reckoned with, and Brooks does her justice with an admirable tenacity. It’s clear from the start who wears the pants in the relationship between Sofia and Harpo, and it sure isn’t Harpo.

Although Harpo foolishly attempts to take the reins back, Sofia is quick to show him that she isn’t going to hand over her power. Brooks as Sofia is quite the spitfire, but her headstrong attitude verges on recklessness and eventually gets her into trouble. Audiences are as frustrated as Celie (played by fellow Tony nominee and possible superhuman Cynthia Erivo) when Sofia is thrown in prison and forced to serve a years-long sentence for punching a mayor.

In the end, Sofia’s story comes to a happy and hopeful close, but she’s not quite as spirited as she once was. In a role that was played by Oprah Winfrey in the 1985 film adaptation, Brooks holds her own. Her interpretation of Sofia is just as impassioned as it needs to be. She doesn’t simply appear on the stage; she demands to be seen. She reaches out to the audience, holds onto their attention, and doesn’t let go.

This may be Brooks’s Broadway debut, but there is no doubt that we will see her in more productions on the Great White Way. Brooks has made her presence known, and much like Sofia, she is unstoppable.

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About Brooke R.

"Don't wait for people to tell you who you are. Show them." - Laura Benanti

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