Don Reviews "The Color Purple: The Musical"
There have been many classic films that have had musicals based on them that have worked like “A Christmas Story”. On the other hand there have been some attempts that fall short. As I often do, I ask the question of how necessary this is, especially with a story that garnered ten Oscar nominations (including Best Picture) and five Golden Globe nominations with a win.
“The Color Purple” is based on the book by Alice walker and adapted for the stage by Marsha Norman with music by Allee Willis, Brenda Russell, and Stephen Bray. Starring Bianca Horn as Celie, N’Jameh Camara as Nettie, Gavin Gregory as Mister, Carrie Compere as Sofia, and Carla R. Stewart as Shug Avery, it takes place in the first half of the twentieth century in Georgia as Celie, abused physically and sexually at home to the point where her father makes her marry Mister. He would rather have her sister Nettie, so he ends up being abusive to her as well as he pines for a former flame in Shug, a flamboyant blues singer who starts a friendship with Celie. There is also Sofia, who is Mister’s daughter-in-law and also tries to help build Celie’s self-confidence. After Celie marries Mister, she no longer hears from Nettie, so she believes Nettie is dead, and what follows is Celie’s journey to learn to stand up for herself and make a better life even while dealing with her adversities.
There is only one set through the whole production consisting of three tall wooden backdrops with chairs on them. I really did not understand their use as they reminded me of something Andy Warhol would make. Also, the only props that are used are chairs that would be moved around during the production, a few baskets, and some sheets. I really had to use my imagination for the scenery, which works in some cases, but not as much for me here. The music came from an off-stage orchestra, and I felt there were a few times where there was an imbalance of the music versus the singing. The singing was very good, especially from Horn who can truly belt it out.
The plot is where I am conflicted. I liked how there was a mix of serious issues with quick comedy or laughable moments through the production, but I felt there was too much focus on the musical numbers and not enough on the story itself, which felt very rushed. I noticed at one point during a song they stopped for about twenty seconds to address a major plot point and then returned to the song. I understand that this is a musical, but the balance with music and dialogue was just not right for me in this case. I will barely recommend this production only because the cast is that good and will only recommend the seeing the production in the lowest price available seats.