The Color Purple was originally workshopped by the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, in the summer of 2004, and received its world premiere on September 9, 2004. It opened on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre on December 1, 2005, and closed on February 24, 2008, after 30 previews and 910 performances. The Broadway production received eleven Tony Award nominations. It features music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Alee Willis and Stephen Bray, with a book by Marsha Norman.
Taking place mostly in rural Georgia in the early 1900s, The Color Purple tells the story of a African-American woman named Celie. Despite the oppressive nature of her life, Celie is transformed as she finds her self-worth through the help of two strong female companions, Sofia and Shug Avery. The musical shows the problems faced by African Americans of the time, including the harshest of racism, sexism, violence and poverty.
The marriage of style of music to setting and theme in The Color Purple is brilliant. The vocals and instrumentations fit the feel of the time period and the characters like a glove. The best example of this is the use of the Church Soloist (Kadejah One') and the three Church Ladies (Nesha Ward, Virlinda Stanton and Deaun Parker). While each is vocally strong on their own as soloists, their gospel style singing is filled with tight harmonies, perfectly balanced as a group. They serve as a Greek chorus full of gossiping characters and fun.
Taprena Augustine has the right look and style for the alluring, if world weary woman, Shug Avery. Her singing voice is well suited to the role, and her "Push Da Button" shows why Shug is hot, but the high pitched, shrill placement of her speaking voice detracts from the character. Pam Trotter is good as Sofia, but vocally doesn't seem to achieve lift off out of the rumbling nature of her low notes in "Hell, No!," and she needs to have more fun with the song "Any Little Thing." The latter should be so endearing and naughty that it leaves you grinning.
Dayna Jarae Dantzler as Celie manages to capture both believable youth and maturity as her character ages. Her beautifully emotional singing of "What About Love" and "I'm Here" are high points of this production. Most importantly she captures a gradual, real growth in the character that doesn't just happen from one scene to the next, but over the course of the whole show. The Color Purple is a moving piece of theatre filled with the passionate story of love and survival. This production does full justice to a great book and intelligently written music.
This production of The Color Purple is scheduled to appear through May 10 - 15, 2011, on the Marden Stage of Dreyfoos Hall, in the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts is located at 701 Okeechobee Boulevard in West Palm Beach, FL. For tickets to this show, and/or information on their season, you may contact them by phone at 561-832-7469 (561-832-SHOW) or 1-800-572-8471 (1-800-KRAVIS-1), or online at www.kravis.org. For more information on the tour, visit www.colorpurple.com.