The Color Purple the Musical (Broadway) - review
It was however the talent both vocally and as a strong evocative actor that the lead Cynthia Erivo as Celie stole the show. Her voice is truly awe inspiring, with an extensive range both musically and emotionally."
The Color Purple is the Broadway remake of the famous Pulitzer prize-winning Alice Walker novel of the same name. The book was turned into an Oscar winning/ nominated film, 30 years ago by Steven Spielberg and made famous by well-known actors such as Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, one of the producers of the Broadway theatre production.
It was with anticipation and a barely constrained attempt to manage my expectations that I attended British director John Doyle’s production of The Color Purple in New York on Broadway. The cast caused me great excitement particularly the presence of Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery, her voice alone made me want to up sticks and cross an ocean to go and watch…which I did!
It was however the talent both vocally and as a strong evocative actor that the lead Cynthia Erivo as Celie stole the show. Her voice is truly awe inspiring, with an extensive range both musically and emotionally making it hard for any audience member to leave unaffected (as we found out from a fellow theatre goer who had been to see the show four times…it only opened officially in December 2015). Cynthia played the role of Celie in the UK at the Menier Chocolate Factory theatre in London where The Color Purple ran and one can’t help wondering what would it have been like to see Erivo there on home soil, if you like, as Cynthia is British with Nigerian heritage.
The production exhibited an excellent use of theatre space and well thought out retelling of the original story so it translated well onto to the stage. This production carries a strong cast, however if in the first half Jennifer Hudson’s character seemed to be lacking a certain degree of presence her voice didn’t and in the second half the audience was treated to a much stronger and humorous Shug Avery.
Danielle Brookes of Orange is the New Black fame in the role Oprah made famous as Sophia was strong, sassy and a pleasure to watch. Her strong bluesy/ gospel inspired voice was unexpected but suited the character and personality of Sophia as a no nonsense woman who was constantly doing battle to assert her right to just be safe, be respected, be treated like a human being. In the period the play is set just to achieve these things we often take for granted today as a woman was a major struggle and still is for many.
Moving, funny, dramatic and incredibly entertaining The Color Purple is a winner.
The Color Purple was a complete production with a strong cast, vibrant score with two particular songs that struck a chord ‘The Color Purple’ sung by Cynthia Erivo and ‘What About Love?’ a duet between Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo. The set was intriguing with its backdrop of wooden chairs (a staple of any circa 1900 farming home) and a strong script that combined the nostalgia of memorable lines from the film yet maintaining its own voice and personality which brings the audience a new pathway into Alice Walker’s phenomenal story of self-discovery, faith, growth and love.
This musical is a must see whether you purposely hop on a plane for a cultural New York break or take it in while there for other reasons. Moving, funny, dramatic and incredibly entertaining The Color Purple is a winner.
The Color Purple the Musical is on Broadway - see listing
Cynthia Erivo, The Color Purple the Musical UK - interview
The Color Purple the Musical UK - review