THE EVOLUTION OF FORMIDABLE WOMEN
Steven Spielberg brought Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning book "The Color Purple" to life in 1985 with his film adaptation. Spielberg touched upon the challenging and hard aspects of Celie's life told through the narration of a series of letters. The musical covers three decades of Celie being an oppressed black woman living in Georgia in the early to the mid-twentieth century.
By the end of the story, a transformation happened where a woman who had fought back to regain the self- esteem and confidence she lost in the early years of her adolescence. Celie is a happy, independent, and self-confident woman.
The Color Purple musical opened on Broadway at The Broadway Theatre on December 1, 2005, directed by Gary Griffin, produced by Scott Sanders, Quincy Jones, and Oprah Winfrey, with choreography by Donald Byrd and musical direction by Linda Twine. It garnered eleven nominations winning two 2016 Tony Awards—including Best Revival of a Musical.
Rising star, Director Lili-Anne Brown take the reigns telling the story of Celie's life in The Color Purple. Featuring an all African-American cast of nineteen talented actors, Brown masterfully brings an upbeat rhythm of life, enthusiasm, and joy to this 1982 novel by Alice Walker. Brown is a touch of gold that Chicagoland theaters should be blessed to have.
The Color Purple, a novel that cut deep regarding the mistreatment of women as property, was written thirty-seven years ago. Celie, who would be proud of the "Me Too," movement is a story that tugs at your heartstrings. The Color Purple is filled with generational trauma, toxic abuse, same sex-love, the desperate need of self-love, are all on display at The Drury Lane Theatre.
The musical opens up in the year of 1909 when Celie (Eben K. Logan) is 14 and pregnant with her second child — both products of rape by her stepfather. She is playing a clapping game and singing "Huckleberry pie" with her younger sister Nettie (Kyrie Courter) while they attend church. Celie went into labor, and Pa (Sean Blake) quickly dragged out of the church, after giving birth to her son. Pa, who is her father, takes the baby away, and brusquely tells her what he is going to do with her child. Celie quietly asks God for a sign as she says her goodbyes to her newborn ("Somebody Gonna Love You").
Four years later a local farmer and widower Albert "Mister" Johnson (Melvin Abston) asks Pa permission to marry Nettie. Pa disagrees and tells him he can have Celie and to help sweeten the deal; he will throw in a cow. It is during this time Celie comes in to contact with some powerful women to help her find her way.
One such woman who is the polar opposite of Celie; the very sexy and seductive Shug Avery, played by Sydney Charles, one of the most experienced and talented actresses in the production. Charles takes on the coveted role of Shug a sultry blues singer who appears as Mister's Mistress and nails it to perfection with the song "Too Beautiful for Words."
Then there's Nicole Michelle Haskins, who plays Sofia a voluptuous, fiercely independent woman who befriends Celie and marries her stepson Harpo. Sofia is a woman who refuses to submit to whites, men, or anyone else who tries to dominate her; does a brilliant job. She was overpowering and dominated the stage when she sang "Hell No" to stress her point!
We would be remiss if we didn't mention Mister's eldest son Harpo, played by Gilbert Domally. He does an exceptional job trying to overturn his father stereotypical gender roles while married to Sofia until his father tells him to beat her. And the three ladies played by Alexis J. Roston, Shantel Cribbs and Camille Robinson are priceless.
The Color Purple is an uplifting triumph of the human spirit over prejudice, male dominance, and adversity, filled with colorful forging characters that many can relate to in this world.
Celie's formidable transformation is hard to watch, but it is so worth going through the journey with her to see her blossom into an independent woman. Witnessing Celie navigate her life of adoration for her sister, children, the strife of an abusive relationship, and her spirituality is worth the trip to Drury Lane. Logan draws you into Celie's dismay and despair where you feel her emotions of turmoil and victory every step of the way.
This Tony and Grammy-winning musical feature a joyous mix of jazz, ragtime, rhythm, and blues, and gospel, presented by a cast that was ready to deliver a long-time favorite. Music Director Jermaine Hill musical score of The Color Purple was magnificent. The Color Purple has some come-to-Jesus gospel songs, like "Mysterious Ways' led by the towering Lorenzo Rush Jr.; and bump and grind songs like "Push The Button; but the songs that tugs at the heart in "I'm Here," lead by Eben K Logan. Logan performance of Celie was incredible.
The choreography done by Breon Arzell's was splendid! The jovial African folk and praise dances were superb; exceptionally when the men performed "Brown Betty" when they saw Squeak.
Walker's unflinching narrative which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction; demands a significant emotional investment. The Color Purple's controversial subject manner, violence, and abusive storyline were frequently challenged. However, it's now a positive example; helping others to overcome the strife of an abusive relationship and finding your healing spirituality in God.
Let's Play 'Highly Recommend' The Color Purple" the story about long-suffering, growth, endurance, and fight, all nurtured by love and transitioning.
Drury Lane Theatre Presents
The Color Purple
Book by Marsha Norman
Music and lyrics by Brenda Russel, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray.
Directed by Lili-Anne Brown
Choreographed by Breon Arzell
Music directed by Jermaine Hill
September 13 – November 3
Filed under: ChicagoNow