The Magnificent Color Purple, and That’s the Gospel Truth.
It feels like ages ago since I saw this show. About a week before Christmas. And with the holidays approaching, there was no time to write up my thoughts on this wonderful show. So here we are, the New Year approaching and I’m trying to finish up this theatrical year by midnight tonight. But I must say, what a way to end. With a huge glorious bang of a show.
Color Purple, the revival brought to us by the fantastic Menier Chocolate Factory in London, strips this show down to its basic parts, and with that treatment, (director/set designer/musical staging: John Doyle) this show blows the ceiling off this Broadway house like no other. Are we in a theatre or a Gospel Church? It’s hard to say, but the excitement and the love is loud here (along with some very vocal audience members who talk to the stage like it’s their best friend – something one should just accept as part of the ambiance and energy of the show – which I must admit took some thoughtful concentration).
Cynthia Erivo as Celie is by far giving us something to stand up and cheer for. She starts out so sweet and quiet but her size and spirit grows as she finds her inner voice and internal strength. Probably one of the best performances you will see this theatre season, and Act 2 is a slam-dunk if there ever was one. Idina Menzel had one of those kinds of songs at the end of the powerful If/Then, when single handedly she tears us apart, standing on a bare stage and taking us through an emotional journey in one deeply felt song. An incredible moment. But Eriva has a few of these Act 2 numbers. Just when one finishes, and we think we’ve seen the light and the glory, she gives us another song just as exciting and heart wrenching. Unbelievable.
The others, every last one of them, deserves the standing ovation they get at the end of this show. This adoration isn’t just for Eriva, but for all. Jennifer Hudson as Shug, and Danielle Brooks as Sofia, give us plenty to smile, clap, and shout about. Hudson delivers on her first foray onto a Broadway stage, playing her secondary role well enough although it does have a lazy quality to it that I just can’t shake off. But Brooks is perfection. I loved the Orange is the New Black‘s actress who makes the audience howl with love and support for her stand up for yourself number, “Hell No!”. Roof raising is all that could be said about that performance.
John Doyle directs this simply and elegantly, with a perfect touch of comic energy coupled with a dynamic and forceful message of empowerment. The music by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, and the book by Marsha Norman serve this Alice Walker story effortlessly and sublimely, mixing gospel and broadway perfectly. I hope to find my way into the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre/Gospel Church one more time to witness this impressive production. Thank you and Hell yes, Menier!
And now, Happy New Year to you all. It’s time to celebrate the ending of 2015, frontmezzjunkies first year in the blogesphere, and to look forward to 2016 and all the new and exciting productions I will be blessed to see. The list is long and it’s growing. Thank you for reading. Now get your butt to the theatre!
Cast Cynthia Erivo as Celie, Jennifer Hudson as Shug, Danielle Brooks as Sofia, Isaiah Johnson as Mister, Joaquina Kalukango as Nettie and Kyle Scatliffe as Harpo; Also Phoenix Best, Dwayne Clark, Lawrence Clayton, Carrie Compere, Patrice Covington, Adrianna Hicks, Bre Jackson, Grasan Kingsberry, Kevyn Morrow, Ken Robinson, Antoine L. Smith, Carla R. Stewart, Akron Watson and Rema Webb