BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE IN CONCERT, Cadogan Hall
Having premiered on Broadway in 2005, The Color Purple was first seen on the London stage back in 2013 at the Menier Chocolate Factory. The production, directed by John Doyle, subsequently transferred to Broadway, launching British actress Cynthia Erivo to international stardom.Last night (21 May) the musical - which has a book by Marsha Norman and a stunning score by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis - made its highly anticipated return to London with a concert staging at Cadogan Hall in Chelsea. With a dream cast and glorious band, Danielle Tarento's production provided a rare night of theatrical gold. Adapted from Alice Walker's novel, The Color Purple tells a moving story which still pulled at the heartstrings, despite the show only being semi-staged. It's upsetting to watch Celie go through one traumatic event after another - she's raped, she has her children taken away from her, and then she's married off and beaten by her husband, yet Celie still manages to find her inner strength as she ventures down her path to self-acceptance. I was pleasantly surprised by how well The Color Purple worked in a concert setting. Inevitably some moments were lost, but its overall message and sheer beauty were very much evident. It was a treat to see the always feisty Wendy Mae Brown strut her stuff as Sofia opposite Tyrone Huntley (soon to reprise his performance as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar) as Harpo. Huntley is the walking definition of vocal perfection - his effortless vocals never fail to amaze. Playing Shug, Rachel John brought the house down with her rendition of "Push Da Button". The soon-to-be Hamilton star has the most incredible voice and her scene-stealing stage presence is alluring. Newcomer Seyi Omooba made her mark as Nettie; she looked at home, showcasing terrific chemistry with her co-stars. Omooba reminded me of a young Cynthia Erivo - her vocals can soar, but also she has remarkable control over the softer side of her voice. Broadway actress Marisha Wallace, who is currently kicking up a storm as Amber Riley's alternate Effie White in Dreamgirls, raised the roof as Celie. It was remarkable to see Wallace hold back throughout the majority of the show until the character finds her inner strength in the second act.
As the performance reached its conclusion, it was like watching a firework explode in the most spectacular of ways - Wallace tore apart the score and brought the entire audience to their feet mid-show with her exquisite rendition of "I'm Here". Wallace is a force to be reckoned with - it was truly special to see her embrace every moment. A star is born.
It seems criminal that such an epic concert production should be staged for just one night only - let's hope Tarento can bring The Color Purple In Concert back for more. Those lucky enough to secure a ticket witnessed an evening which truly was too beautiful for words.
Photo Credit: Scott Rylander