A limited two-week run of The Color Purple recently closed at the famed Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, and it was a spectacle to behold. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker (that was later adapted into a landmark movie starring Whoopi Goldberg and directed by Steven Spielberg), the show follows the life of main character Celie and the lives of her family and friends in the 1930’s. The critique of the low status of Black Americans, and Black women in particular, in a society that is both racist and sexist is a major theme throughout. Yet the empowering messages of radical self-love and acceptance, faith and hope in a time of abuse and oppression, and the importance of woman empowerment feel even more current post-#MeToo. Already a brilliantly captivating work in print and on film, the musical manages to somehow be lighter in tone than both while not undermining the gravity of much of the subject matter. Black joy is conveyed the bright oranges, reds and greens of an account of Africa; the joyous yellow of a brand new pair of pants; and, of course, the color purple, which is deemed the color that “…pisses God off if you don’t stop to enjoy it.”
Adrianna Hicks is luminous as Celie. Celie’s growth and evolution are the backbone upon which the entire story rests, and Hicks plays her various stages with strength and aplomb. Her voice is powerful and courageous, giving uplifting energy to Celie’s grace throughout circumstances that would break many. While the costumes and set design were minimal, spaces and places were evoked by the actions of the actors, and also by a curious assortment of chairs that were continually picked up and moved around. Clocking in at two hours and 35 minutes from start to finish including intermission, it still feels fast paced, especially considering that it is a true musical, with very little spoken dialogue. The voices of the all-Black cast are often used for a traditional call and response style of singing, which makes for an even more evocative sense of time and place. It is rest-assuredly a Broadway revival, made up of enormously talented young professionals whose singing and acting chops burst across the stage such that even the bit parts are memorable, from a somewhat dimwitted prizefighter boxer boyfriend to a mean-as-a-rattlesnake father-in-law.
To read the rest of Sensei’s review, go to Riot Material magazine: https://www.riotmaterial.com/the-color-purple-is-joyous-affair/
And please follow us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/riotmaterial/