Born Again: “The Color Purple” On Broadway Is Nostalgically New
“The Color Purple” is back on Broadway and this revival is a refashioned, minimalized interpretation of its predecessor.
Starring British import Cynthia Erivo (Celie), Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson (Shug Avery), “Orange is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks (Sofia), Isaiah Johnson (Mister), Kyle Scatliffe (Harpo) and Joaquina Kalukango (Nettie); the John Doyle-directed reimagined musical comes to Broadway after making it debut at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory in 2013.
Stripped down from the elaborate staging and moving parts that made up the original Broadway show; this showing of “The Color Purple” allows the script to shine brightly and places emphasis on each actor’s performance in a way that makes the entire production new again.
“The Color Purple,” which opened on Dec. 10, 2015 at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, still focuses on the downtrodden journey of the Georgia teenager Celie was was past off to the cruel and abusive Mister to be his wife. Celie ultimately builds her self-esteem—with some help from her implied lesbian lover Shug of course—and has an awakening to break free and ultimately becomes an entrepreneur. The musical covers four decades, from 1909 to 1949 in a production time of two hours and 20 minutes.
The music in “The Color Purple” is an infectious mix of R&B, blues, jazz and Gospel and was created by Grammy Award winners Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. All of the songs from the original production remain in the revival.
There are many stellar moments throughout the production—Hudson’s performance of “Push Da Button,” Scatliffe’s “Brown Betty,” and pretty much everything The Church Ladies (Carrie Compere, Bre Jackson and Rema Webb) do in the show.
Johnson’s embodiment of the grievously evil Mister, who of course earnestly seeks redemption in the end, is so believable that theatergoers are apprehensive about clapping for him at his final bow.
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Even at the young age of 26, Brooks brings a panache and presence to Sofia that at times makes her as sexually-alluring as Shug. Her refreshing delivery of the character is one of the highlights of the experience.
But while most come to “The Color Purple” having never heard of Erivo, her captivating performance as Celie earned her four standing ovations the night AlwaysAList.com attended the show. More so, during her performance of “Miss Celie’s Pants”—the sixth to the last song in the show—the London-bred talent had to beg the crowd to stop their spontaneous standing ovation just so she could finish the song.
Erivo’s ability to delivery huge emotion with the most subtle gestures and vacant stares is as close as any actress who has played Celie in the stage version has come to capturing the essence of what Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg delivered in the film version of the story.
One thing is for sure, they may not know her coming into the show, but the name Cynthia Erivo is one you’ll never forget after seeing “The Color Purple.”
“The Color Purple” also stars Patrice Covington (Squeak), Lawrence Clayton (Preacher/Ol’ Mister), Grasan Kingsberry (Adam/Buster), Kevyn Morrow (Pa), Antoine L. Smith (Grady), Carla R. Stewart (Olivia), Akron Watson (Bobby), Dwayne Clark (guard) and the show’s swings, Phoenix Best, Adrianna Hicks, Ken Robinson and Jamarice Daughtry.
Hudson will depart the show on May 8, being replaced by Tony Award winner Heather Headley starting May 10.
“The Color Purple (New Broadway Cast Recording)” soundtrack was released on Feb. 19 on Broadway Records.
[divider]VIDEO: Watch the official trailer from “The Color Purple” revival on Broadway.
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[divider]VIDEO: Watch Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson perform the theme song from “The Color Purple” in this official music video.