Color Purple: One More Time for Heather Headley
Round two. The Color Purple again, and I couldn’t have been more excited for myself, and for my companion. Not only did I think that Cynthia Erivo gave the performance of the year and Danielle Brooks was perfection, but I just had to see Heather Headley do her thing as Shug Avery. When I saw it a year ago, I was thoroughly blown away by John Doyle’s stripped down/amped up production as stated in my review posted last December:
But I have to admit that looking back, Jennifer Hudson gave us a bit of a lazy performance. In some ways it suited the part. Shug was supposed to be exhausted when she first shows up, but the love and care of Celie brings her back to life, and Hudson’s Shug never seemed to rise up from low to high. Now after seeing Heather Headley scratch and strut her way through the part, I think I was too kind on Hudson. Headley was born to play that feisty singer, and I am thrilled that I got to see it before she leaves the show this Sunday.
Unfortunately for my friend who was seeing it for the first time, both Erivo and Brooks were out that night’s performance. Those two powerhouses elevated The Color Purple to a gospel level of excitement and energy that I had never experienced in a musical theatre before. Distracting as it was for this ‘classically trained audience member’ to have the audience be so vocal (initially), it was a thrill to let it take over my soul, and then we, the audience, flew with these characters over the Purple fields. Adrianna Hicks as Celie (understudy for Erivo) and Carla R. Stewart as Sofia (understudy for Brooks) don’t disappoint though. Both remind us that the New York theatre world is blessed with so much amazing talent that these shows do not suffer when the leads are off. Hicks doesn’t really take us to the exhilarating highs that Erivo does almost magically, but she does bring down the house, as does Stewart with her fantastic number, “Hell, No”. The audience didn’t seem to be as fired up as the last time, but it also wasn’t a sold out show like it was when I saw it last December. Sometimes, the singer is feed by the audience as much as we are feed by the singer. And a half full house is hard to drum up that same intoxicating energy.
So go see this show. Tomorrow if you can. Before Heather Headley leaves. Because you don’t want to miss her. I am curious though. Are the rumors true? Is she leaving to do The Bodyguard, the musical coming over from London? To Broadway? or to the Papermill Playhouse? I sure hope the rumor is true, because, let me tell you, I’ll be the first in the cyber line to grab a ticket: