“The Color Purple” continues to be very good to Cynthia Erivo. The musical adaptation of the Alice Walker novel about a young girl trapped in a loveless and abusive marriage has already earned the British actress and singer a Tony and a Grammy, and now she’s nominated along with the rest of her cast for a Daytime Emmy for Best On-Camera Musical Performance in a Daytime Program for their appearance on NBC’s “Today.” A win would put Erivo only an Oscar short of achieving EGOT status — that exclusive club of artists who have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony— and all for this one project.
The category of Best On-Camera Musical Performance was created just last year and was originally called Best Musical Performance in a Talk Show/Morning Program. Nominees in that inaugural category included superstars Adele (“Today”), Bruno Mars (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”), Annie Lennox (“The Talk”), Jeff Lynne’s ELO (“CBS This Morning Saturday”) and the eventual winner Rachel Platten (“Good Morning America”).
The category was renamed to allow submissions from all daytime programming, though this year’s nominees are once again exclusively from talk and morning shows. Along with the “Color Purple” cast, the contenders are pop star Michael Buble (“Live with Kelly”), Soul/R&B singer Charles Bradley (“CBS This Morning Saturday”), a capella group Pentatonix (“Rachael Ray”), and soul band St. Paul and The Broken Bones (“CBS This Morning Saturday”).
Erivo, who is nominated with the rest of the “Color Purple” cast for their rendition of the show’s title song on “Today” (watch above), became a breakout star in her Broadway debut as the show’s heroine, Celie, winning the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical last June. She then claimed a Grammy as a principal soloist along with co-stars Jennifer Hudson and Danielle Brooks when the revival’s cast recording won Best Musical Theater Album in February.
The 1985 film version of “The Color Purple,” directed by Steven Spielberg, earned 11 Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress for star (and future EGOT recipient) Whoopi Goldberg, but the film tied an ignoble record as Oscar’s biggest shutout. The musical adaptation (produced by Oprah Winfrey, who was herself Oscar-nominated for the film) first premiered on Broadway in 2005, playing over 900 performances and earning 11 Tony nominations. That production’s Celie was played by stage actress LaChanze, who won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. The 2015 revival, a minimalist production directed by Tony-winner John Doyle, wowed critics and audiences in both London (where the revival premiered) and New York, where it won Tonys for Erivo and for Best Musical Revival (for which Winfrey received a Tony as one of the producers).
Erivo’s win at the Daytime Emmys would be unique in a couple of ways. Only two EGOT recipients earned their Emmys in daytime. Songwriter Robert Lopez (“Frozen,” “The Book of Mormon”), currently the youngest EGOT winner, received two Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Music and Composition for “Wonder Pets!” in 2008 and 2010. And Goldberg won her Emmy in 2002 (the same year she earned a Tony as producer of Best Musical winner “Thoroughly Modern Millie”) as host of a daytime special about the life of Oscar winner Hattie McDaniel.
More significantly, three of Erivo’s four wins required to achieve EGOT status would all be for the same project, in stark contrast with almost all of the 12 performers to reach this milestone thus far. EGOT winner Mel Brooks did earn his Grammy, Tony, and Oscar all for “The Producers.” But it should be noted that those were technically for different projects: Brooks’s Oscar win was for his original screenplay for the 1968 film version of “The Producers,” while he won two Tonys and a Grammy for the 2001 Broadway musical adaptation.
So should Erivo win the Emmy and ultimately go on to win an Oscar in her career, she would be the only EGOT recipient to win three of her awards for performances related to the same artistic property. Maybe someone should cast Erivo in a film version of the “Color Purple” musical so that she could go four-for-four.
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