BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Captivates Edmonton
A pair of sisters laugh and sing, enjoying a lively clapping game. Little do they know their lives will soon be shattered, wrenched apart when the elder is forced to marry a cruel much-older suitor.
So begins The Color Purple, a poignant tale of sisterhood, love, and the human spirit's resiliency. Based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning novel, The Color Purple is a musical with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray. The story's fame skyrocketed thanks to the 1985 film version starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey with the original 2006 Broadway production garnering 11 Tony nominations. Its 2015 production won the honour of Best Revival of a Musical and launched the career of starlet Cynthia Erivo, placing The Color Purple once more in the spotlight.
Tara Jackson is stunning in her own right as resilient heroine Celie. She captivates with her quiet grace and emotive vocals, evoking sympathy and eventual triumph as she evolves from a battered under-aged wife to a spirited confident woman. She particularly shines in the show-stopping solo I'm Here, receiving a thunderous round of applause. Also noteworthy are her scenes with Allison Edwards Crewe, Celie's spirited sister Nettie. Together they paint a captivating portrait of love and sisterhood, causing the audience to share their grief and pine for their reunion throughout their characters' separation.
The supporting cast is equally dynamic. Karen Burthwright is effervescent as flamboyant diva Shug Avery, showcasing both spunk and compelling vulnerability. Her heartfelt rendition of Too Beautiful for Words tugs the heartstrings while provocative jazz anthem Push Da Button infuses the stage with star power. Other notable performers include Ryan Allen as Celie's tyrannical husband Mister, Andrew Broderick as Mister's bumbling son Harpo, and the charismatic Janelle Cooper as Harpo's saucy wife Sofia. Also noteworthy are Masini McDermott, Maiko Munroe, and Sarah Nairne as the rollicking trio of church ladies. Sly and sassy, they provided much needed comic relief, earning big laughs from the audience with their mischievous busybody antics.
The production's set design is minimalistic but lovely, evoking America's deep south. Complete with graceful arching trees and a spiky fringe of green-gold grass, the versatile set serves as farmyards to outdoor concert venues to scorching African plains. Warm lighting beautifully heightens the emotions onstage, flushing pale gold with dusk, wrapping nighttime scenes with shadows and, yes, even washing the stage and characters with bright, exuberant purple.
Emotional and evocative, The Color Purple is not to be missed. It runs at the Citadel Theatre until October 13.