THE COLOR PURPLE
The Lowry, Salford Quays
Until Saturday Saturday 15th October 2022
It was back in 2013 when the first international production of this Tony Award nominated musical first opened Off-West End at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, with a cast led by Cynthia Erivo as Celie. Erivo would later reprise her role in the Tony Award-winning 2015 Broadway revival of the show, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance.
Despite the huge Broadway success and repeated US national tours since its world premiere in Atlanta back in 2004, it is not a show that has been easy to see here in the UK, save for that Chocolate Factory production.
Thankfully, however, Leicester’s Curve theatre and Birmingham Hippodrome opened a beautiful new production of the musical in summer 2019, which was later streamed ‘At Home’ during the pandemic, and now wider regional audiences have the opportunity to see the show for the first time as that critically acclaimed production heads out on tour.
With a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, The Color Purple is a stirring and uplifting adaptation of both Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel and Steven Spielberg’s OSCAR nominated 1985 film, which communicates the story in a much different way, certainly to the specific, epistolary style of the book, and feels significantly more alive and joyous because of it.
The largely harrowing tale spans the course of forty years and tells the story of courageous heroine Celie, who we first meet as a young teenager along with her younger sister and best friend Nettie at their home in rural Georgia in 1909. Celie has been repeatedly raped by her father throughout her childhood and by the age of 14 has already given birth to two of his children, which have both been cruelly taken away from her and “gotten rid of.” Soon after, she is sold off as a wife to the cruel and sadistic “Mister,” separated from her sister (the only person that truly loves her) and forced to live an unhappy life of misery and servitude.
It is a life filled with hardship, physical and psychological abuse, domestic violence, anguish and fear, and one completely void of love and affection; that is until two powerful women enter her life and inspire her to start standing up for herself, put and end to the oppression, and learn to discover her unique voice in the world.
The Color Purple is very much an ensemble piece and there are fabulous performances throughout. Me’sha Bryan delivers a sensational and haunting performance as Celie, and there is outstanding support from an ensemble cast including Bree Smith as Shug Avery, Anelisa Lamola as Sofia, Ako Mitchell as Mister and Aaliyah Zhané as Nettie. Special mention too to Karen Mavundukure, Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah, and Kayla Carter (at the press night performance) as Doris, Darlene, and Jarene, respectively, the hilarious trio of gossiping church ladies who introduce many of the scenes and cover the transitions with their comedic interludes, much like The Muses in Disney’s Hercules.
Tinuke Craig’s minimalist production, directed on tour by Lakesha Arie-Angelo, is beautifully staged and makes excellent use of Alex Lowde’s hugely effective, stage-filling wood-panelled (and largely composite) set, which incorporates a number of sliding panels that lift up to reveal hidden set elements. The score and songbook contains a thrilling mix of musical themes and styles drawing inspiration from gospel, soul, jazz, ragtime, and blues.
On paper, the plot may not sound like it has the makings of such a joyous and rousing musical, but in the hands of Craig and Arie-Angelo, it proves an unmissable, life-affirming production that will leave you uplifted and inspired. It is a true celebration of life, love and overcoming adversity through personal strength and friendship.
As mentioned, The Color Purple is not a show that you get the chance to see in the UK very often, so if you get the chance to see this joyous and uplifting production, then please go. You won’t regret it! Let’s hope it isn’t too long before we see the show back on tour again.
NOTE: Suitable for ages 14+. Please note that this production contains themes of rape, abuse and incest, with overt racism and sexism. This production will contain some strobe effects and the use of haze.
Running Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at The Lowry, Salford Quays: Saturday 15th October 2022.
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.