BWW Review: Portland Center Stage's THE COLOR PURPLE Give Us What We Need Most: Hope

BWW Review: Portland Center Stage's THE COLOR PURPLE Give Us What We Need Most: Hope

If a musical can heal the world, that musical is THE COLOR PURPLE -- specifically, the production now playing at Portland Center Stage. This star-studded production, headed by the luminous Felicia Boswell in the role of Celie, tells a story of empowerment that has probably never been more needed than it is right now, even though the book it's based on was published in 1982. THE COLOR PURPLE provides hope that better days are coming and that redemption and even forgiveness are possible.

THE COLOR PURPLE follows the life of Celie, a poor African-American woman living in rural Georgia in the early 1900s. When we first meet her, she's a young girl playing children's games with her sister, Nettie. By the second scene, she's a 14-year-old pregnant (for the second time) after being sexually abused by her Pa. And not long later, she's married off to Mister, the cruelest man in town and much too old for her, to take care of his home and four children while he lusts after "nasty woman" Shug Avery.

But that's not the end of the road for Celie. As a testament to the human spirit and the power of love, she experiences a personal revolution, transforming over the course of the show from powerless to powerhouse.

PCS's production is the stripped down second version of the musical, which debuted in London in 2015. There are no bells and whistles, and the set is minimal, relying mostly on lighting and a few chairs. What this leaves room for is the story, the music, and the voices.

And, oh man, the voices! As the center of the show is Boswell, who gives one of the finest performances I've seen at Portland Center Stage. Earlier, I described her as "luminous," and I mean this in the truest sense -- a beacon of light shining out of the darkness that is Celie's life. Her transformation is masterful, and when she sings "I'm Here," it's an on-your-feet moment.

Surrounding Boswell is an equally fine cast, which includes performers with some serious Broadway chops (Chaz Lamar Shepherd, who plays Mister, originated the role of Harpo in the original cast) and PCS familiar faces (like Maiesha McQueen, who starred as Ethel Waters in His Eye is on the Sparrow and brings the house down with "Hell No," an anti-domestic violence anthem). Other standouts include Isaiah Tyrelle Boyd as Harpo and Lana Gordon as Shug Avery. But there are no slouches here -- the cast is phenomenal, top to bottom.

Obviously, you should go see THE COLOR PURPLE. Even if you haven't read the book and even if you think you don't like musicals. It will challenge you and uplift you and give you hope. I'm guessing you could use a little bit of that right now.

THE COLOR PURPLE runs through October 28. Details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv

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From This Author Krista Garver

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