"The Color of Purple" (Mercury Theatre): Perfect Shade of Triumph Over Adversity

"The Color of Purple" (Mercury Theatre):  Perfect Shade of Triumph Over Adversity

The Mercury Theatre presents the Award-winning THE COLOR PURPLE, The Musical About Love.

Years ago, I saw the movie version of Alice Walker’s novel.  My primary recollections are it starred Oprah and Whoopie and was a downer. Since the musical’s successful debut on Broadway that garnered 11 Tony Awards, I was curious about how this movie translated into a musical. Last night, I experienced that the dark story illuminates beautifully as a musical.  Walker’s adversity (rape, incest, domestic violence, racial hatred) is present but as the backdrop to the primary focus.  This show is about the power of love and kindness in transforming the human spirit.

From the initial church scene, this talented ensemble harmonizes like a perfectly tuned gospel choir.  The eclectic score by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray (Music and lyrics) is actualized masterfully by Music Director Eugene Dizon and Choreographer Brenda Didier.  Dizon establishes the distinct sound and Didier responds with innovative dancing.  The wide range of melodies and movements makes this truly ‘The Musical About Love’ because there is plenty to love.  Each compilation of song and dance is like its own passionate story within the overall musical tale.  The individual numbers are separate emotional connectors: “What About Love” –romantic, “Push Da Button” – sexy, “Africa” – tribal, “Is there anything I can do for you” – playful, and “The Color Purple” –inspirational.  There are even pop-up snarky moments brought to us by the hilarious church ladies: Carrie Louise Abernathy (Doris), Sydney Charles (Darlene), and Brittany L. Bradshaw (Jarene).

Under the expert direction of L. Walter Stearns, even when the music stops, the soulfulness continues.  Although the large ensemble each adds to the vivid complexities of this human saga, the star of the show is Trisha Jeffrey (Celie).  The press materials state it.  The production emulates it.  The petite Jeffrey dominates the stage in her majestic transformation.  Whether playing the victim or the conqueror, Jeffrey unforgettably belts out her resignation, her anger, her happiness. Her beautiful metamorphism is motivated by the strong, noteworthy women she meets.  The sassy Jasondra Johnson (Sophia) establishes her character’s moxie with a firm and well-placed ‘hell no.’ The other standout is the audacious and salacious Adrienne Walker (Shug).  Walker is magnetic in attracting lovers and the audience.

This cast and score could captivate dressed in plain street clothes.  Still, Costume Designer Frances Maggio dresses them up through four decades and over two continents.  Maggio impressively goes from rural rags to 20’s flapper chic to native loincloths to Miss Celie’s pants.  The wardrobe changes alone are a spectacle.

THE COLOR PURPLE, The Musical About Love is the perfect shade of triumph over adversity.   You’ll leave the theatre knowing anything is possible.  And you’ll appreciate the next violet hue you see in the sky for its subtle magnificence.

Running Time:  Two hours and forty minutes includes an intermission

At The Mercury Theatre, 3745 N. Southport

Based on the novel by Alice Walker

Adapted by Marsha Norman

Music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray

Musical directed by Eugene Dizon

Directed by L. Walter Stearns

Wednesdays, Thursdays at 7:30pm

Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm

Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays at 2pm

Thru October 27th

Buy Tickets at www.mercurytheatrechicago.com


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