The Color Purple – The Musical

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The Color Purple – The Musical is an adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel by Alice Walker

Set in the deep South USA the story is centred around a poor, uneducated African American teenager Celie, her life and her struggles. She has two children from being raped by her father, he takes the babies away and she thinks they are dead. She is forced into a brutal marriage and is separated from her sister Nettie who promised to write and as Celie never received a letter over the years, thought she had died.

We follow Celie for four decades of her life as she tries to keep her faith, dignity and self-esteem through all the pain and suffering she experiences. She feels totally alone and abandoned however she meets people in her life who have a profound impact, such as Sofia, who is a strong outspoken woman, and Shug a blues singer. Celie gains the courage to leave her abusive husband to start a new life with Shug. Although it doesn’t work out, they remain friends. Celie inherits a home and a store and builds up a tailoring business. Celie regains her faith in God when her sister comes to find her and brings her lost children with her.

This is a musical of a harsh story and the adaptation is carefully portrayed not to be too visual with regards to the levels of abuse yet we can feel the trauma and oppression of the story. Also, the thoughts are there on how can such a tale become a musical, is that a fit? Well, yes as a powerful story the passionate and heart felt songs are emotional, the music and the singing take you to the next level of engagement and understanding. As Celie’s life turns around and there is strength, hope and happiness the music and songs reflect this and fill you with energy.

The performance by this cast was phenomenal, the singing was incredible. Together, the theatre was filled with amazing gospel sounds which resonated to every corner, individually, they were stunning. Every song was filled to the brim with emotion and the actors were performing as though it was their first night, filled with passion, sentiment, energy and tenderness. As an audience member, it sucked you in from the start. There was a wonderful mixture of styles of music which fitted the piece or the character, from the sleezy jazz of Mister, to the strong and assertive Sofia and Shug’s sexy blues. The ballads were epic and brought you to tears.

Celie (Me’Sha Bryan) was on stage for near enough the whole performance and was fantastic.

As well as wonderful singing, the acting was delightful and the transition from the acting to the singing, which can be clunky in a musical, was smooth. Any scene changes were seamless as we were distracted by the three wonderful ladies giving us the town’s social commentary, or something equally delightful. There were moments of humour and light-heartedness along the way which eased you through the tough parts of the story, however it is a powerful story of never losing your faith, particularly faith in yourself, not letting the bad things in life make you into a bad person and empowering to see the heroine have the courage to change her life and live with hope and happiness. I think we all came out of the theatre with a tear in our eye and a commitment to ourselves to do better.

Photo Credit: Manuel Harding

This review appeared on GrapevineLIVE.

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