BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Raises Voices and Spirits at the Benedum
Celie never knew much about a good life. Her sparse moments of joy were shared with her sister Nettie. As a teenager, her father impregnated her - twice - and gave the baby away each time. Celie became part of a package deal with a cow and was forced into an abusive marriage. Through all this, supported by feminism and a mysterious God, Celie is able to persevere and continue on her unsuspecting quest to produce the colors of the rainbow in The Color Purple.
The Color Purple, the musical, is based off the Alice Walker novel and Warner Bros./Amblin Entertainment motion picture of the same name. The powerful music behind the show truly differentiates itself from the other entertainment genres through blended harmonies and strong lyrics. The entire company elevates the music and fuses together as a gospel choral ensemble opening with vocal runs that span octaves in "Mysterious Ways." Their high energy and extra notes continue throughout the show.
From there, Celie's journey, played out by Adrianna Hicks, takes center stage as she battles against her abusive and ungrateful husband. She begins discovering herself and her womanhood first through Sofia (Carrie Compere), the wife of her husband's son. Sofia is a strong-willed, no nonsense type of gal who isn't afraid to put her foot down against her husband. Celie is shocked by this and very quickly takes a liking to her. Ms. Compere is at home in this role, reprising it from the 2015 Broadway revival.
Celie continues finding strength in Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart), a scandalous singer who stole Celie's husband's heart a long time ago. Shug comes to visit Albert, the husband, once in a blue moon; she is drunk and unstable, bringing the man to his knees and pushing Celie away initially, but the two find out they have more in common than first meets the drunken eye. It is the confidence of the performer that begins wearing off on Celie, when she realizes she no longer needs to come at her husband's beckon and can just sit and do nothing if she pleases.
Despite taking place in the early part of the twentieth century, The Color Purple resonates with audiences of a present generation. The themes of female empowerment over sexual abuse and a dominant male class strike a cord in modern day America. The cast receives the loudest applause in these moments of resistance, determination, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.
Visual elements also accent the journey. The stage is made of wooden platforms and three walls of chairs that reach to the heavens. The grainy wood color is pervasive, and the drab outfits of the cast tell the story of the status quo southern lifestyle. It's not until Shug comes onto the scene with bedazzled outfits that a hint of color emerges. This color confidence is contagious, and the stage soon lights up in colorful outfits as optimism increases.
The Color Purple is metaphoric in so many ways, and there is so much more that can be said about the production. Form the outstanding vocals to the well-timed comic relief necessary when dealing with such heavy topics, the show is beautiful and it's here, but only through the end of the week.
To see or not to see score: 6/9; Moderately Recommended Show
Photo Credit: The Color Purple National Tour