BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE ~ The National Tour At ASU Gammage ~ A Treasure Of Soulful Vibrations

BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE ~ The National Tour At ASU Gammage ~ A Treasure Of Soulful Vibrations

Alice Walker's great gift to American literature was THE COLOR PURPLE, the precious and revelatory story of a black girl's journey from poverty and abuse to independence and empowerment.

On a larger scale, it is a narrative about love, forgiveness, reconciliation, and roots. It is an inherently American tale ~ that is, a slice of one group's particular American experience ~ that requires the telling. (Standing tall among the other profound works that constitute the anthology of great African-American literature.)

In doing so, Walker deservedly won the 1983 National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, and THE COLOR PURPLE proceeded to garner acclaim as both a film and musical.

The revival of the musical (book by Marsha Norman, with songs by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, and Allee Willis), won a 2016 Tony and is now on tour ~ its current stop at ASU Gammage in Tempe for a brief run through April 22nd.

The production is, at once, inspiring, exhilarating, and provocative ~ remarkable in this accomplishment because its staging is so streamlined and economical ~ with a cast that is, to put it mildly, electrifying.

The challenge in translating the complex of emotions and behaviors in a story such as Celie's is to avoid the typical excesses of Broadway that distract from a show's main theme. In this regard, John Doyle's vision and direction of the current version of THE COLOR PURPLE is a masterpiece, keeping things focused, simple, and true.

His set design is akin to the cleanliness and austerity of a country church. Straight backed chairs ascend three walls and are pulled by the ensemble as needed to serve as pews or platforms from which the gospel of Celie can be revealed. Indeed, this image of ascension suggests a metaphor for Celie's journey from despair and an ill-fated marriage to the reunion with her sister and her rebirth as an independent and enterprising woman.

The women of the cast ~ led by the amazing Adrianna Hicks (Celie), and featuring vivid, moving, and muscular performances by Carla Stewart (Shug), Carrie Compere (Sofia), and N'Jameh Camara (Nettie) ~ are a vocal powerhouse of African-American self-affirmation, giving voice to the travails and aspirations of a generation of women who paved freedom's way for their sisters to come.

With a woman's liberation comes a man's redemption, and the protagonists of this evolution ~ Gavin Gregory as the oppressive Mister and J. Daughtry as Harpo, Mister's feckless son ~ are as vibrant and compelling as their counterparts.

At curtain call, the only appropriate calls are those of Amen and Hallelujah!

Photo credit to Matthew Murphy

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From This Author Herbert Paine

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