I am nobody’s mother, but I am somebody.
On Tuesday night, @endotique met me (at the last possible minute, goddamn you, traffic; she literally got to the seat as the lights were going down!) to see new revival of The Color Purple. I saw the original production some years ago and I literally remembered nothing about it. LaChanze was in it, sure, but I don’t even remember her performance. I remember that Oprah was a producer and it didn’t do well – that’s about it.
I think it’s safe to say that I will definitely remember this production.
The stage is very bare and has a semi-Our Town feel to it – in the sense that part of the first act has the characters that aren’t in the scene sitting onstage and watching.
The elevator pitch for the show is it’s about two sisters, Celie and Netty, who live in Georgia and are separated when Celie is “given” to man by her step-father (who had been raping her since she was 12) to marry and basically be his slave. The new husband is abusive and doesn’t allow her to have contact with her sister at all. The Color Purple is about Celie’s journey to find her sister and her independence. Or at least a life that doesn’t include and daily rapings and beatings.
Spoiler alert: There’s a happy ending.
The score is beautiful and I really enjoyed the direction (finally, John Doyle, you did something right!). The choreography is really excellent, too. But the stars of this show are Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks, and Heather Headley.
Cynthia Erivo was Celie and she has a voice you wouldn’t believe. She earned a standing ovation after one of her big songs in the second act. I’d be surprised if she talks at all when she’s not onstage. Give this woman the Tony Award ASAP.
Danielle Brooks, aka Tasty from Orange is the New Black (who I totally didn’t know was in this and it was a fantastic surprise), was Sophia, a woman in their small town who doesn’t take shit from her husband or any one else. Brooks has a killer voice and she’s a great actress. She helps encourage Erivo to leave her abusive husband.
And then there’s Heather Headley (who recently replace Jennifer Hudson, who, honestly, I could not care less about no matter how talented she is) as a famous singer named Shug Avery. Avery used to be in a relationship with Celie’s abusive husband and later becomes another advocate, and love interest, for Celie. I haven’t seen Heather Headley onstage since AIDA and I was so excited to be witness to her greatness again. She didn’t disappoint. She sounded great, she looked great, and her acting was, as far as I could tell, spot on.
I could go and name the rest of the cast as they were all wonderfully talented with gorgeous voices, but you can go to IBDB for that. We stood as soon as the curtain call began and didn’t sit again. I enjoyed this show so much more than I thought I would and I’m so glad I gave it a second chance.
The original production was a joke in comparison. Don’t hold it against this production because it’s 100% better.