I’ve had a long history with the story of The Color Purple. I saw the movie first in 1986 or so—I was in the sixth grade and I lived in an all-white town with all white students in my all white school. We’d learned about the period of slavery, but never about the Jim Crow era and never about what life was like for poor African Americans in the south. This movie was a revelation to me.
I followed the movie with the book, and quickly read every Alice Walker book I could find.
Last night, I followed the book with the musical. The musical was released in 2005, and went through a revival in 2017. The Fox Theater was packed, and I can only assume the rest of their stay will be as well attended.
The cast was strong. Usually, when you see a live production, one or two of the cast members stand out. Everyone in this cast put on a fantastic performance. There were parts of the evening where the entire audience gasped, clapped, and—unless I was the only one—cried, at the same time. During one scene, an audience member got so wrapped up that they started talking back to the characters (and was quietly escorted out, thank you, Fox).
Even though I knew the story, and I knew the movie, I didn’t miss the scenes that had to be cut. This was simple—the stage setting consisted of boards and chairs, that’s it. The chairs became percussion instruments, jailers, dance props, weapons. The cast used their voices and expressions to fill in the gaps. The use of color was also notable. Every person who was different—or filled with joy—wore orange, red, or yellow.
As in the book and the movie, you become Celie’s cheerleader. You hope for redemption for those who need it, and you embrace the three main characters—who all did a fantastic job—Celie (Adrianna Hicks), Sofia (Carrie Compere), and Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart). I love that the weight of the show landed on these three women, each strong in their own way.
If you have a chance to get to the Fox, don’t miss this. Remember, “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” | Melissa Cynova