Moving, Funny And Poignant, “The Color Purple” Returns To The Fox Theatre

color-cerlie:sisterThe story, the music and excellent performances lead the way as “The Color Purple” takes another  bow at the Fox Theatre after the successful Tony award winning revival on Broadway. The show is so tragic yet so uplifting as our heroine, Celie, has the world collapse on her in the early 20th century in her Georgia home.

color-trioAdrianna Hicks is powerful in voice and displays strong acting skills as the beleaguered Celie. She tries to cope with a father who rapes her and then takes her babies away from her then a man known as “Mister” who marries her even though she’s “the ugliest thing” he’s ever seen and then has to put up with his beatings and emotional abuse. Gavin Gregory is solid as Mister who rules Celie and his son, Harpo with a strong hand.  Her only solace is her sister, Nettie, given an equally strong performance by N’Jameh Camara. But when she leaves home to try to stay with Celie and her husband, she is threatened by Mister as well so she leaves and, although she writes Celie letters, Celie never receives them.

color-pushbuttonThe ladies in her life provide the emotional support she needs including Sofia, Harpo’s wife, who is strong and begins to dominate Harpo much to the chagrin of Mister. On opening night, Britt West played the part of Sofia with a master degree in feminism. She’s  not putting up with any crap from Harpo- a riveting performance by J. Daughtry- who soon bends to her every wish. Another strong influence on Celie is Shug Avery- the hotter than hot chanteuse who makes a triumphant return to Georgia and agrees to play a set at Harpo’s new gin joint. Carla R. Stewart is every inch a smoldering woman- particularly in her big production number, “Push Da Button.” But she soon becomes a mentor and role model for Celie and other women in the town as her strong presence mixed with a bit of sexuality also spins the menfolk’s heads around.

color-fathersonSqueak, played on opening night by Gabrielle Reed, eventually dallies with Harpo when Sofia leaves him and she is a treat indeed with a voice to match her name and then comes the moment when she realizes that she has empowerment too. Jared Dixon rounds out the major cast as Grady, a wealthy businessman who marries Shug and eventually leads her to have the money she needs to back up the power she already has. The ensemble is just as powerful as the featured cast helps carry the show.

color-sophia:chorusWhen Celie learns that Nettie has been writing her all the time and Mister hid the letters,  a reunion is soon planned when Nettie returns from her missionary work in Africa. To cap off the story line, Celie designs a set of pants that help ladies of any size to look attractive and they soon take flight and become a popular item. So she becomes independent as well and the tables are turned as the women in “The Color Purple” become the driving force in this little Georgia town.

color-flagsThe book by Marsha Norman captures the basis of Alice Walker’s powerful story and, although I’ve never read her book, a new found friend in the audience recommended I do so since it really expands the characters and their relationships with each other. The music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray turns this musical version into an even more powerful piece than the film and that movie was nothing short of spectacular (Spielberg was “screwed” by the Academy Awards- eleven nominations and no wins). From the gorgeous title number to the winsome “What About Love?” to the rest of the plot-driven songs, this is a soaring score.

color-celiefinale“The Color Purple” is a treat. I’m not sure of my reaction to the “bare bones” set with platforms, a wooden wall filled with chairs hanging on it and the bizarre sequence when Celie walks in with a old dial type phone and sets it down because her character receives a phone call in that scene. In this case, I guess the story says it all and you don’t need an elaborate set. It plays through Easter Sunday, April 1st at the Fox. Get tickets now and you won’t be disappointed- a beautiful story told with strong acting and superb singers.

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