Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Also see Susan's review of Dave
This musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and Steven Spielberg's 1986 film version, originally opened on Broadway in 2005, but John Doyle, credited with direction and musical staging, streamlined the action and removed the clutter in this revival, which opened on Broadway in 2016. Marsha Norman's book and the songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray serve as the basis for a production that uses artificeoften the actors face the audience rather than each otherto find a deeper truth.
The heart of The Color Purple is its central character, Celie (Adrianna Hicks), who perseveres from poverty and abuse through to love and ultimately self-acceptance. It's a killer role, taking the character on a 40-year journey beginning as a lonely 14-year-old, pregnant for the second time. She loses faith at times, but she keeps moving forward, and Hicks commands the stage throughout. Her voice conveys all the facets of the character, from whispered prayers to awe and eventual triumph.
Other standouts are Gavin Gregory as Mister, who marries Celie because he needs a housekeeper and someone to watch his children; Carrie Compere and Jay Donnell as outspoken Sofia (watch her literally bend over backward to avoid a fight) and her easygoing husband, Mister's son Harpo; N'Jameh Camara as Celie's devoted sister Nettie; and Carla R. Stewart, who brings both grit and glamour to Shug Avery, the hard-living blues singer Mister loves, who changes Celie's life.
The scaled-back set (also designed by Doyle) consists mostly of a few wood-plank panels, mismatched chairs, some of which hang on the walls, and some evocative props. Ann Hould-Ward's costumes start in the earth colors of poor farmers, then brighten with the addition of African textiles, and blossom as Celie discovers her skills as a seamstress.
For more information on the tour, visit colorpurple.com