The Color Purple, a musical... (a review)

As many of you know, the highlight of my New Years Eve were tickets to see the musical, The Color Purple, a full circle moment for me a true fan of this literary work and for my girl Oprah.
Brining The Color Purple to the stage, would be a quite a task. The 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker is a blend of comedy and drama, while tackling women's rights and racial discrimination.

I will not recount the entire story for I am sure you have read the novel or at least seen the movie. However for those of you going to see the play and have only seen the movie... do not expect to see the movie. Which brings about my first critique. I do not understand how or why, Marsha Norman chose to blend the novel with inaccuracies of the movie, while creating some of her own inaccuracies. I believe Norman's rewriting of the novel, trivialized very poignant and important parts of the book that, which for me took away from the deepness of the story.

From the very first moment the curtains go up it is impossible to ignore how visually amazing and stunning the set is. You are instantly transported to a rural Georgia in 1909 with amazing skylines and breathtaking countryside's with golden fields of wheat. Set designer John Lee Beatty draws you inside the story and keeps your interest with every set change, which is seamless and quite accurately portrayed. While all of the Paul Tazewell's costumes were quite nice the colorful costumes for the segment in Africa were remarkable and quite reminiscent of the Broadway production of the Lion King.

Like I said before, do not expect to see the movie version of The Color Purple. And nothing says this more than the music of the show. Instead of Ms. Celie's blues, Shug Avery gives a semi burlesque number with “Push da Button,” an ode to orgasm. Sophia tell's Harpo, "Hell No", to obeying his rules. The musical features no music from the movie but will not leave you disappointed.

Most of the cast members are either new to or have limited experience on Broadway. While I have read much acclaim for LaChanze who plays Celie. For me she did just an ok job. While her voice was amazing she didn't nearly come close to Whoppie Goldberg's dramatic portrayal of Celie. While the character has the gift of being humorous and tragic at the same time... LaChanze didn't leave me feeling sympathetic for Celie. Elisabeth Withers-Mendes plays Shug Avery, masters the outspoken and decadent blues singer. Her vocal delivery was quite strong especially on the title song, “The Color Purple.” Felicia P. Fields probably has one of the hardest jobs in this musical. Playing the robust and fearless Sofia, which won Oprah a Oscar nomination had to be quite large shoes to fill. However Felicia does a superb job and has made this role her own. Kingsley Leggs, brilliantly plays Mister, the man everyone wants to hate. Kingsley’s powerful takes you on his journey from villain to redemption. I also enjoyed Brandon Victor Dixon as Harpo and Krisha Marcano as the ditzy and energetic Squak.

My overall thoughts:

Norman could have done a much better job writing the story from the novel and choosing which scenes to actually display. While I enjoyed her gossiping chorus of church ladies to move the story, reminiscent of a Greek chorus, I feel using the letters of the novel would have kept the audience who has never seen the movie or read the book caught up with the storyline. I think that if the show concentrated more on the deepness and drama of the original story, LaChanze might have been able to carry off the storyline better. I am happy to see that Norman explored the homosexual relationship between Celie and Shug a little deeper than the movie and that she tries to show the redemption of Mister at the end of the Musical. For those who read the book, you know that Mister actually comes to appreciate Celie and becomes friends with her, eventually asking her to really 'marry' him. The music and the set design are flawless and made up what the story lacked. I am a true fan of this novel and movie, so my critique may be a bit bias.


Jamal K. Franklin said...

Yea - I can see you're DEFINITELY a fan of Oprah. Who else uses the term "full circle moment" other than her fans?

Coming Into Reality,

Virginia Slim said...

Hmm... interesting review. I've heard folks that love it and say it's the best thing they've seen on Broadway in a long time, and others that said it will close by the spring. Guess I'll have to go and decide for myself. Thanks again for the review!

ProfessorGQ said...

Wow...I thought the play would have been outstanding, but I guess that it's Oprah's name is what making the show sell...not so much the quality.

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DizYaBoy said...

i gotta go see it soon.

btw ... i miss u.