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It touches your heart, stimulates your brain, and feeds your soul.

Pleasant surprises are the best kind.

I knew very little about The Color Purple. I knew it was a Spielberg movie from the 1980's. I knew it starred Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah. I knew it was sad. I knew little else.

Therefore, I went into EPACs current musical production not knowing what to expect. I was amazed. The Color Purple is an intense, yet beautiful story. Director/choreographer, Joshua Willaims Green brings us a vivid, emotional journey that is perfect for the Ephrata stage.

Juanita-Renay Gray (Celie) is a gifted actress and singer. This young lady portrays intense vulnerability and sympathy within her character. Our heart goes out to her as she endures abuse after abuse When she eventually gains her footing and finds her strength in the second act, it is cathartic.

Terron Quailes plays the loathsome character, Mister. Quailies intimidates with the help of his large stature and use of the bullwhip. Like the best villain, he was able to elicit fear, hatred, and disgust from the audience. Yet he never becomes a caricature.

Asia Littlejohn stars as Celie's sister, Nettie. She has an innocence about her that is enhanced by her pigtails and sweet smile. Mister does not allow Celie to communicate with her sister so she assumes that she is probably dead. However, as I stated earlier, pleasant surprises are the best kind. A second act reunion is heart-warming between these long separated siblings.

I would be remiss If I didn't acknowledge the amazing talents of James Major Burns (Harpo), Jeanette Wehye (Shug), and Ashley Baker (Sophia). While this may be the first time that any of these folks acted on the EPAC stage, I hope it is not the last. Their contributions were unique, nuanced and admired.

The church ladies were a fun addition and sort of Greek Chorus for the show. They functioned in a similar to the girl trio in Little Shop of Horrors.

The score was very enjoyable, especially the Gospel numbers. Favorite numbers for very different reasons were "Big Dog" and "It's Easter Sunday". The seven piece orchestra sounded like it had twice as may musicians in it.

The set was sparse, simple, and rural. I'd keep it in storage for a couple of years until"To Kill a Mockingbird" becomes available for licensing. Costumes were also very effective, especially as Celie asserts her independence by choosing to wear pants.

More than any other theater in Central Pennsylvania, EPAC takes risks. They have built a reputation on producing shows that may be too edgy, cerebral, or obscure for the general public. Nevertheless, their shows always have a heart and always have a purpose. The Color Purple is exactly the type of important show that EPAC does well. It touches your heart, stimulates your brain, and feeds your soul.

Experience it for yourself now through October 29th.

From This Author - Rich Mehrenberg

Rich Mehrenberg was introduced to the magic of theater when he played "The Boy" in his first grade class production of "The Giving Tree". It has been a long term love affair eve... (read more about this author)

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