The Color Purple -Musical

Why see it:

  • Ten Tony nominations in 2005
  • A revival on Broadway a decade later
  • Multiple national tours
  • A blockbuster!

But for me The Color Purple was from the Blockbuster era, meaning this touring show had VHS-like shortcomings and there are now better options. Still, I’m pleased to have seen the landmark musical and know the story, despite critiques you’ll read here.

An extremely spare set perhaps reflected challenges in Georgia, 1909 to 1949. The only change when a scene moved to a mansion in Memphis was the addition of a telephone to the same bleak stage. The only change in moving to Africa were sheets of cloth tossed in the air. I found the staging severely unsatisfying.

My ears found Adrianna Hicks in the lead role (Celie) bettered by the vocals of (with kudos to) Erica Durham’s Nettie and J. Daughtry’s Harpo. (Note: Ms. Durham stepped into the role of Nettie from her usual Squeak.)

I did feel that Celie, in character and in song, grew stronger as the story deepened. Also, Gabrielle Reid as Squeak (usually Olivia) was precise in her portrayal of a character with that moniker, and Carla Stewart’s Shug was pleasing in her vocalizations.

This performance sometimes felt like a concert, because singers frequently addressed the audience rather than other characters. My interest is rarely sustained when the art of storytelling stops to begin a song.

The essential “I want” for Celie was to be loved, especially to feel that love directly from her estranged sister and other (oddly cast) family. Others talked love, faked love, or offered love only to withdraw it; they let her down. Only familial love could satisfy.

Stop reading now if you are spoiled by spoilers.

Sadly, the “I got” moment barely arrived before the curtain fell. Patrons deserved an encore to witness the joy that came to Celie when her suffering ended, and the reversed polarity in the world of “Mister” Johnson when his life turned around. The Color Purple needs a greater shine at the conclusion, perhaps The Color Periwinkle!

With few notable numbers and one standout song in “What About Love,” the orchestration does not compare to classic musicals nor have the energy of current touring hits like “On Your Feet!

A show that delights others left me somewhat empty by its stage depiction, though not its story … as far as it went.

Viewed April 5, 2018, Durham Performing Arts Center, NC, USA

The cast, then a few editor cuts.

Cast of The Color Purple, April 5, 2018
Durham Performing Arts Center, NC
Cast of The Color Purple

Outtakes from the editor, just for fun
Warning: Content in unpublished draft versions of blog posts may appear longer than published final versions due to cuts such as these:

First, HAMILTON references force their way into stage conversations (and most general conversations, come to think of it). There were two in the draft; neither survived the editing process:

I. Amidst the first paragraph, the Hamilton muse added:
What’d I miss? Perhaps I am missing something or just something was missing from this night’s Purple performance.

II. Just before the spoiler alert was a.nother from A.Ham:
Wait for it! Wait for it! “HERE” (Purple musical number reference) it comes.

Second, this fun anecdote complicated the review and was cut:

III.Referencing concert-like qualities, the draft paragraph began
“In performance terms, this could have been pitched as a concert, …” and that ‘pitch’ thread in the draft had continued with:
“This performance was a change-up pitch in baseball terms, delivering a touching drama wrapped sweetly in song, not the adrenaline of a fastball hurled by musicals with more zip. (Reviewer reference to show night also being the baseball season’s opening night at the sports stadium just blocks from the theater.)

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