BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE National Tour Presented by Dallas Summer Musicals
When THE COLOR PURPLE opened on Broadway in 2005 it was well received, thanks in large part to the support of producing partner Oprah Winfrey, whose performance in the film twenty years earlier earned her an Academy Award nomination. The show left New York on a high note in 2008 and continued to tour through three separate national tours for several years. Flash forward to 2015, and a new interpretation of the Broadway musical has made its way back to the Great White Way. And amongst the relevant #metoo movement, the compelling story of THE COLOR PURPLE sings louder and prouder today than ever.
The current national tour is nearly a carbon copy of the Broadway revival, which was skillfully brought back to life by director John Doyle, known for his ability to enhance the heart of a story without unnecessary stage distractions. Doyle's intimate approach to the text delivers Celie's struggles front and center as we see her survivalist story through decades of rape, abuse, and loss of faith. Although the in-your-face approach is often difficult to stomach early in the show, her journey of finding strength and ultimately (literally) wearing the pants in her relationships is nothing short of inspirational.
Having personally worked on the 2005-2008 Broadway production of the show, I had the opportunity to catch the performances of many brilliant women who tackled the leading role: Lachanze, Jeannette Bayardelle, Kenita R. Miller, and even American Idol's Fantasia Barrino (who truly shocked and impressed everyone on staff), but the raw vulnerability Adrianna Hicks currently leaves on stage surpasses what audiences could take away from the original production, which too often allowed the orchestrations and scenery to overshadow the complex plot. Hicks' layered performance augments Celie's reluctant transformation, which is further reinforced by her thrilling vocal performance.
Carrie Compere's strong and sassy Sofia, makes a similarly standout performance, as do J. Daughtry (Harpo), N'Jameh Camara (Nettie) and Gavin Gregory (Mister). If there's one element of the show that doesn't meet the expectations set by both the film and original Broadway production, however, it's the direction and execution of celebrated lounge singer Shug Avery, who arrives onstage without an ounce of charm and lacking the implied star quality. Though I'm tempted to place the bulk of blame on Doyle's direction of the character over Carla R. Stuart's performance, there was opportunity for chemistry between Shug and Celie that was often left unattained. But, for all that THE COLOR PURPLE managed to accomplish, this hardly made a hiccup in an otherwise perfect night of theatre.
THE COLOR PURPLE might damn well be the best musical to hit the Fair Park stage in recent memory, so don't let the lack of upbeat song-and-dance numbers keep you away. Dallas Summer Musicals upcoming season maintains much of the family-friendly fair Dallas audiences know and love, but there may not be another show as worthy of booking a babysitter as the one that's currently onstage. THE COLOR PURPLE continues through February 4th. Tickets and more information can be found at www.DallasSummerMusicals.org.