I couldn’t imagine Fantasia Barrino playing the role of Celie in the play “The Color Purple.”

All the reviews gave the feisty American Idol singer accolades for her Broadway performance. And yes, she does have a beautiful voice. But playing the downtrodden Celie? I couldn’t envision that.

I saw the Charlotte production in May, and the actress who played Celie, Kenita R. Miller, did a good job, though she lacked the voice to effectively deliver some of her songs. I wanted to see if Fantasia would be different, if she would make the character her own.

I got my answer this week in Washington, D.C.

In her opening-night performance at The Kennedy Center, the High Point native was terrific. I sat there convinced that she was really Celie. Her performance was unforgettable, and her acting ability surpassed all my expectations.

Although Fantasia’s life doesn’t mirror Celie’s exactly, they do share similarities. Both women were illiterate teenage mothers whose fathers did not give them much love or support. Both also overcame huge obstacles and went on to find success in their own right.

Fantasia, who was rumored to be in Charlotte recently filming episodes for her VH1 reality show, transformed herself seamlessly into the character’s different ages.

I enjoyed her version of an older Celie. Her body language and gestures were so convincing I found it hard to believe that I was actually watching a 25-year-old woman.

In the Charlotte production, Celie never fully grew up in the hands of Miller, so the diminutive actress was less convincing as a grownup Celie. Not so with Fantasia.

Fantasia brought an air of authenticity to the character with her height and physical stature.

When Shug Avery, played by Angela Robinson, pulled her close and held her, they looked like two women in love. In that same scene with Miller, the interaction looked awkward.

In each powerful song I could feel Celie’s pain. When she sang the finale, “I’m Here,” it was so soul stirring it gave me chills.

Aside from the addition of Fantasia, the D.C. version had other changes. Most notable was actor Stu James, who played Harpo. His interpretation brought more depth and humor to the character. His interaction with Sophia, played by Felicia P. Fields, better highlighted the love the characters shared.

As of now, Fantasia won’t be joining the cast when the show returns to the Qcity in August. Too bad, because for those who saw it the first time in Charlotte, it would definitely be worth a second look.

Editor’s Note: Qcitymetro.com will give away two tickets to the August performance. To be eligible for the drawing, you must be registered on this Web site.

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