Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Inspires At North Carolina Theatre

A stunning adaptation of a modern American classic.

By: Apr. 24, 2023
Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Inspires At North Carolina Theatre
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You're likely already familiar with an iteration of THE COLOR PURPLE. Whether you've read Alice Walker's 1982 novel or seen Steven Spielberg's 1985 film adaptation, it's fair to assume that you might already know the main beats of this modern American classic. But seeing North Carolina Theatre's production of the musical adaptation will make you feel like you're experiencing the story for the first time.

Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Inspires At North Carolina Theatre If you're not familiar with it, THE COLOR PURPLE follows a young Black woman named Celie as she grows up and forms a life for herself in Georgia from the early to mid-twentieth century. Celie deals with a lecherous stepfather, the loss of her beloved sister Nettie, and a cruel husband, not to mention almost everyone in her life continually reminding her of her own insignificance. But she clings to her faith in God and eventually her connection with the glamorous and popular Shug Avery.

The musical explores the plight of poor Black women in the American South in the first half of the twentieth century in a thoughtful way while also telling a queer love story. It's a moving and beautiful story that will absolutely touch your heart. Marsha Norman's book for the musical is an excellent adaptation, capturing all the necessary character developments and plot points while also keeping it streamlined enough to be easily understandable.

Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Inspires At North Carolina Theatre The music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray are also excellent from Sofia's rousing "Hell No!" to Celie's show-stopping "I'm Here." The original Broadway production ran from 2005 to 2008 and garnered eleven Tony nominations, while the revival ran from 2015 to 2017 and won two Tony awards.

NCT's production is directed and choreographed by Christopher D. Betts, who does an excellent job of bringing the story to life in the intimate space of the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater. The production design is simple, but effective and provides a great backdrop for the action. The costumes by Kishara McKnight help the audience be immersed in the period setting.

There isn't a weak link in the entire cast as they work together flawlessly to bring this story to life. From the talented ensemble to Bre Jackson playing Celie, each cast member is absolutely engaging. Jackson is rightfully the star of the show and watching her timid Celie come into her own is a joy. She captures both the vulnerability and the strength of the character, and it's difficult to tear your eyes away from her.

Review: THE COLOR PURPLE Inspires At North Carolina Theatre Nicole Henry's Shug Avery is equally mesmerizing, as she nails not only her sultry jazz numbers but also has great chemistry with Jackson. Frenchie Davis is very funny as Sofia, but also nails the character's more serious moments. Akron Watson has a difficult job playing the character of Mister, but manages to balance the character's callousness in how he treats Celie and the eager attentiveness with which he treats Shug. Matt Manuel's Harpo, Sharaé Moultrie's Nettie, and Rayven Bailey's Squeak also all bring serious star quality and do an excellent job of making the roles their own. I saw the 2015 Broadway revival production of the show, but I think that NCT's cast is every bit as good.

NCT's THE COLOR PURPLE is one show you don't want to miss. The cast bring the story to life in a way that feels fresh even if you're already familiar with the source material and you're certain to be fully drawn into the emotions of it. There's also a film adaptation of the musical coming out in December 2023, so now is the perfect time to see this musical so that you can compare how it fares onscreen to an excellent production of it onstage.

THE COLOR PURPLE is at NCT through April 30. You can find more information and buy tickets here.

Photo Credit: Curtis Brown Photograph


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