by Mike Hoban
The Color Purple – Based on the novel by Alice Walker; Book by Marsha Norman; Directed by John Doyle. Music and Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray; Set Design by John Doyle, Costumes by Ann Hould-Ward; Lighting by Jane Cox; Sound by Dan Moses Schreier. Presented by the Boch Center Shubert Theatre through December 3.
For those who believe that pain and suffering are indeed the gateways to a spiritual life, then Celie, the central character of The Color Purple, must surely be the poster girl for that philosophy. Celie suffers through presumed incest, teen pregnancy, and losing her children all by the time she turns 15, and the years that follow don’t get much better. But through persistence and prayer she endures her trials and tribulations and transforms herself into a strong woman of dignity and honor before our eyes.
Celie is magnificently played by Adrianna Hicks, who leads a strong cast in this national tour of the Broadway revival that includes Carla R. Stewart as the sultry Shug Avery, Carrie Compere as the no-nonsense Sophia, and the angelic N’Jameh Camara as Celie’s sister Nettie, as well as Gavin Gregory as Mister and J. Daughtry as his son Harpo. This heart-wrenching musical features a collection of gospel, blues, ragtime and other simply gorgeous music that is seamlessly woven into Alice Walker’s tale of redemption.
Celie is essentially sold (along with a cow) into a form of indentured servitude by her father to farm owner Mister, who has eyes for her younger sister Nettie, but settles for the “ugly” older sister. She marries him and her life becomes a living hell, with only her belief in God (which is sorely tested throughout) and the hope that she will one day be re-united with her baby sister providing a reason to live. But as she endures the nightmarish slings and arrows of everyday life at the hands of Mister, a series of women teach her (over the course of many years) to stand up for herself, and Hick’s transformation of Celie is a joy to behold. Her performance, like Celie’s life, grows in strength throughout the course of the show, and by the time she belts out the final solo, “I’m Here” she has the audience under her spell.
The supporting cast is equally strong, especially Compere as the brassy Sofia, whose defiant “Hell, No!” had the women in the audience shouting along; and Stewart’s Shug, who led the wildest song and dance number of the evening with “Push Da Button, and also performed a beautiful and heartfelt rendition of “What About Love?” with Hicks. The harmonies by the women, particularly Hicks and Camara as Nettie, were heavenly. The male members of the cast were also a strength of the production, with “Big Dog”, sung by the farmhands, a standout.
The runs only through Sunday (12/3), so if you’d better move fast before the show moves on. For more information and tickets, go to: http://www.bochcenter.org/thecolorpurple