Chad Reviews "The Color Purple: The Musical"
Over 30 years ago, some fellow classmates in Theatre Arts made me aware of Alice Walker’s “The Color Purple”. I picked up a copy and burned through it multiple times, discovering something new every single read-through and was absolutely ecstatic when I learned that Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones were translating it to the screen, marking Spielberg’s first journey into more “serious” filmmaking. After a string of incredibly popular smash-hit genre films, I could not have been more excited. It would go on to garner massive critical acclaim as well as launching the careers of first-time stars Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey into the stratosphere. In 2005, Jones and Winfrey teamed up with Broadway Producer Scott Sanders to bring the story to life again as a stage musical, receiving equal amounts of praise and accolades upon its debut including several national tours and a London production. Now in the midst of a Tony-winning revival, it plays at Fair Park Music Hall through February 4th.
The story revolves around Celie (Adrianna Hicks), a poor young girl growing up in the Deep South at the beginning of the twentieth century. She has but one love in her life in her sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara), since her Pa (J.D. Webster) takes the children she gave birth to out of wedlock away. After a suitor referred to only as Mister (Gavin Gregory) comes calling for Nettie, he begrudgingly leaves with Celie, and the two become separated for the first time since they were born. When Nettie comes to stay with Celie, she is forced to leave after refusing Mister’s unwanted advances and Celie never hears from her again. Celie’s stepson Harpo (J. Daughtry) finds himself in over his head with his new fiancée Sofia (Carrie Compere), but after a few tumultuous years, they separate and Harpo turns their old home into a juke joint. Shortly thereafter, local celebrity Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart), a bawdy performer and old flame of Mister’s, comes to town and an unexpected friendship between Celie and Shug is born. Together they stumble upon a revelation that completely changes the course of Celie’s life, and sparks a flame inside her that gives her something worth fighting and living for.
I have been a huge fan of this story since I first read it and was equally blown away by the phenomenal Spielberg film. Due to both of these factors, I have been nothing short of excited to see the stage production as well. I was thoroughly impressed with the production, as it introduced a few elements that were left out of the film adaptation. However, I found myself missing some key elements that were omitted such as Shug’s strained relationship with her father as well as the encounters that Celie has when she’s shopping back in town, both as a child when she runs into the young mother that adopted her children and as an adult when she runs into Sofia after she’s forced into a life of servitude for the local mayor’s wife. Regardless, this production still packs an incredible emotional wallop that has stuck with me long after the final bow is taken, featuring standout performances, particularly by Carla R. Stewart with her take on Shug Avery and Carrie Compere as Sofia, practically daring you to take your eyes off them. It’s an excellent story that is beautifully told and continues to remain a timeless classic as well as a national treasure.