On Stage: The Color Purple

The empowerment of women is a hot topic in today’s world, and “The Color Purple” brings the subject to life in meaningful, heartfelt fashion.

Based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” was made into a film in 1985. A musical version arrived on Broadway in 2005 with book by Marsha Norman and  and music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis.

THE COLOR PURPLE Photo 3_preview

Carla R. Stewart, Adrianna Hicks and the North American Tour cast of “The Color Purple.”    Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017

Set in rural Georgia in the early 1900s, “The Color Purple” tells the story of Celie (Adrianna Hicks), who while just a teenager has already had 1 child with 1 on the way — both courtesy of her father (J.D. Webster). Celie never sees the children as they are immediately taken away to parts unknown as soon as they are born.

Celie’s only friend is her sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara), but they are soon separated when Celie is given away to Mister (Gavin Gregory) for his bride. Mister would rather have Nettie, but Pa sweetens the deal with Celie by throwing in a cow.

Mister treats Celie more like a slave than a wife, complete with beatings to keep her in line. Mister’s son Harpo (J. Daughtry) hooks up with the independently-minded Sofia (Carrie Compere), who will not be treated in a similar fashion.

The final major player in this drama is Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart), a jazz singer and former lover of Mister. When she comes back to town for a visit, her stay with Mister and Celie has major repercussions in all their lives.

“The Color Purple” is a powerful tale told without compromise. The first act is almost relentlessly bleak but things do turn around for Celie in the second half. The set design is sparse but effective. The actors offer compelling performances and have tremendous voices, even if the songs aren’t that memorable — with a few exceptions such as Sofia’s defiant “Hell No!” and Shug’s sexy “Push da Button.”

“The Color Purple” runs through April 1 at the Fox Theatre. www.fabulousfox.com

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