Broadway In Chicago Presents
The Color Purple
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
Musical Adaptation of Alice Walker’s best-selling novel “The Color Purple”’
Directed by John Doyle
Limited two-week engagement
July 18th – July 29th
“The Color Purple” is a 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker, who won both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction in 1983. The book was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.
The title refers to a moment when Shug Avery asks Celie to take time to notice the little things that God does to show us how much He loves us, which is another way of saying take time out to smell the roses. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it,” Shug proclaims. And this production of “The Color Purple” will definitely make you take time and notice how incredible the multitude of talent is in this play.
Director John Doyle brings the series of letters written in the book to life in a musical at The Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. The story focuses on the life of a young African American girl named Celie Harris living in rural Georgia in the first forty years of the twentieth century between 1909 and 1949. The musical addresses various problems that African American women faced during the early 20th century, including domestic violence, poverty, pedophilia, sexism, incest, and racism.
Over that span, we observe Celie (Adrianna Hicks) endure the loss of her children (Adam and Olivia), rape by her stepfather Alphonso “Pa” Harris played by J.D. Webster, and domestic abuse by her husband, Mister (Gavin Gregory), who deemed her too ugly to marry and wanted her sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara). Pa, feeling that Nettie was too young to marry, begged Mister to take Celie for his wife, and if he did, he would throw in a cow for good measure.
Leaving behind her sister Nettie and witnessing so much tragedy, we see the demoralization of Celie as she begins to doubt there is a God. Lost and feeling like her sister was dead, Celie regains the virtue of herself via a close relationship she develops with Shug. With the help of Celie’s two strong female companions, Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart) and Sofia Johnson (Carrie Compere), who both were exceptionally entertaining and a delight to watch on stage, we see the birth of the little girl into a resilient woman. They helped Celie navigate her life to where she is comfortable to be in her skin. “I’m poor, black, I might even be ugly, but dear God, I’m here. I’m here.” Hicks as Celie, is truly here and a force to be reckoned with in this musical.
Celie is transformed as she finds her self-worth. Hicks gave a remarkable performance with her God-gifted voice of belting out high and low notes in “Somebody Gonna Love You” and “What About Love.” Adrianna embodied the character of Celie played by Whoopi Goldberg on screen in the 1985 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Steven Spielberg and screen written by Menno Meyjes, based on Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Carla R. Stewart was also convincing in her role as Shug and Carrie Compere almost stole the show with her performance of Sofia. Her rendition of “Hell No!” was remarkable. All of the ladies’ voices resonated throughout the theater, which only made you want to hear and see more.
“The Color Purple’s” fantastic cast of talented actors brought you into the play and made you feel like you were a part of each scene and performance. You will enjoy witnessing the relationship between Harpo played by J. Daughtry and Sofia as they discover a love that had to be willed back without the outside distractions of Mister and Squeak (Erica Durham). Even the funny scenes where the ladies are gossiping will have you laughing.
Like the book and film, this musical of overcoming misogyny and racism in the rural South and battling the struggles for equality may be hard to swallow for some; however, it was remarkably done by Director John Doyle and will pull on your heartstrings.
Let’s Play highly recommends the musical that will entertain you from the moment the actors step on the stage. The Color Purple is filled with emotions, and it will inspire some tears but will leave you with a sense of happiness.