Story highlights inspiration, perservance
Star Center Theatre is known as a Children's Theatre, however they had no problem drawing a crowd for their opening weekend showings of The Color Purple, with an all adult cast. The house was so packed that they had to grab some more chairs.
There's a lot of history for this show, including some history with Star Center. Star Center Theatre presented The Color Purple four years ago, in the PK Yonge auditorium. Five of the actors appearing in the musical were also in the show four years ago, Star Theatre Founding Director Rhonda Wilson, Brandon Hall, Malik Moore, Sebrenah Phillips, and Niyin Smith.The Color Purple (The Musical) began on Broadway in 2005 and won one Tony Award and several more nominations. It was revived in 2015 and won two more Tony Awards and even more nominations.
The musical is based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker, which won the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award for Fiction. The Color Purple was then adapted to film before it became a musical. The film, released in 1985, was directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Menno Meyjes, and starred Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, Danny Glover as Mister, and Oprah Winfrey as Sofia. The film was nominated for several categories for the Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Awards, and Whoopi won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama.
This is a very emotional and moving story, displaying the lead character's transformation as Celie (Rhonda Wilson) overcomes her struggles to become a strong and beautiful woman. Musicals tend to lighten the feel of the story a little bit. While this is not a light hearted story by any means, watching it as a musical held the tears back.
The Color Purple, directed by Christian St. John tells the story of Celie. Celie's parents have both died and she is being raised by her abusive step-father, Pa (Sheldon Davis). Celie births two of Pa's children, but Pa gives them away to Preacher (K.C. Bryant). Celie leaves one abusive man for another when she is forced to marry Mister (Malik Moore). Celie's sister, Nettie (Desiree Wallace) asks to stay with Celie when Pa won't leave her alone, but when Mister comes on to her and she rejects him, he beats her and makes her leave, then refuses to allow Celie to have any contact with Nettie, the only person that loves her.
Mister's son, Harpo (Brandon Hall), falls in love with Sofia (Kelli McGill) and they get married. But when Harpo wants Sofia to mind, Sofia leaves him. He then has an affair with Squeak (Kareena Wallace) and Sophia begins dating Buster (Jordan Watson). Sofia and Harpo dance, prompting Sofia and Squeak to fight over Harpo. Harpo and Sofia reconcile, of course, because they are meant to be and obviously in love.
The whole town lusts after Shug Avery (Anquetta Carr), so when she comes for a visit, Mister insists that she stay at his house. Celie and Shug fall in love, but Shug can't stay in one place for long. Before Shug leaves, she hands Celie a box of letters from Nettie, which Mister had hidden from her. Celie reads the letters and learns that Nettie is a missionary in Africa, and that her children, Adam (Andre Bostic) and Olivia (Niyin Smith), are there with her.
When Shug returns for a visit, married to Grady (Allen McBride), she takes Celie away from Mister, home with her and her husband. Celie then receives a phone call, informing her that Pa has passed away and that her parents left the house to her. She returns home and begins a business, making pants. Shug returns, Grady has left her for Squeak, then Squeak left Grady for Buster. Mister visits, apologizes for the way he treated her, and arranges for her sister and children to visit. Celie has a beautiful reunion with Nettie, Adam, and Olivia, and introduces them to everyone.
This is a very uplifting story. We see Celie feeling so broken and unloved, surviving an incredibly tough life, and then we see her transform into a beautiful and strong woman.
While this is not a comedic story, it definitely has some funny parts! Like when Celie told Harpo that if he wanted his Sofia to mind, he'd have to beat her. And when Sofia responded to Celie's advice by trying to convince Celie to leave Mister, with the song and feminist anthem "Hell No".
This show also had some very impressive scenes, like when Shug, during a song and dance routine, did a split on top of 3 chairs!
I hate to pick favorites, but I really enjoyed watching Niyin Smith (Olivia/Ensemble) and Jordan Watson (Buster/Ensemble) and would love to see more of them! Most of the actors were also in the ensemble and played multiple roles and all of the actors sang, which they all handled beautifully.
Music Director Jason Brame and Choreographer Marcella Burger did a great job of making this show work as a musical. I really enjoyed the songs and the dancing! The set, designed by Sonia Franco, displayed a front porch on stage right and a church pew on stage left, which houses the Church Ladies (Ericka Jackson, Sebrenah Phillips, Sulmarie Duncan).
I really enjoyed The Color Purple as a musical. My favorite song of the show was probably Any Little Thing, sung by Harpo and Sofia when they reconcile. The songs were all great, though, I am a huge fan of musicals. However, I have not yet seen the movie. My friends that had seen the movie prior felt that a musical felt forced. After seeing other movies and then seeing them as a musical, I can see that. So I'm glad I saved the movie for after the musical. And the musical did inspire my theatre partner and me to check out the movie from the Alachua County Public Library, we will be watching it this weekend.
Don't worry. I stocked up on tissues for this weekend's movie watching.