Home Musical play THE MUSICAL is an exquisite masterpiece at the Stageworks Theater

THE MUSICAL is an exquisite masterpiece at the Stageworks Theater


“Look Celie, you’re not ugly, you’re the grace of God if I’ve ever seen it…” – Shug Avery

“If God ever listened to a poor woman of color, the world would be a different place…”


From the moment the lights went out on the stage at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd., Unit 151 otherwise known as the Stageworks Theater, the opening night audience sat eagerly as we waited for the opening notes from The Color Purple: The Musical Adaptation with book by Marsha Norman and music/lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. The musical adaptation is based on Alice Walker’s novel of the same name and then the 1985 film adaptation starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. The musical tells the story of a life led by Celie, an African-American woman who navigates life in the American South from infancy through the mid-20th century.

Opening in 2005 on Broadway and through 2008 The Color Purple: The Musical, garnered 11 Tony nominations in 2006. Late in the 2015 season, an acclaimed revival opened on Broadway starring Danielle Brooks and Cynthia Erivo, as Sophia and Celie respectively, and in 2016 won the production two Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical. The cast also included Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery, Kyle Scatliffe as Harpo, and Joaquina Kalukango as Nettie. The cast of the original Broadway production and subsequent Revival received numerous replacements throughout their tours. Fantasia Barrino starred as Celie from April 2007 to January 2008, making her Broadway’s first American Idol winner. In the revival, Heather Headley took over from Jennifer Hudson’s Shug Avery, and then Jennifer Holiday took the role after Headley left the production.

Boasting a rousing score of 19 songs in Act 1 and 10 in Act 2, The Color Purple is filled with driving anthems, rich gospel harmonies, soul/r&b and even blues. Encompassing a passionate and moving play that is sure to warm the heart and stir the soul.

From the start, the Purple Color Company is magnetic through and through.

“If you want to have a life worth living, a life that expresses your deepest feelings, emotions, worries and dreams, you have to fight for it.” -Alice Walker

At the helm of this outstanding company are two performers at the top of their game as Celie and Nettie.

Nettie played by Krista Ellen Hayes is a knockout in both stage presence and vocal abilities. Krista will make your heart ache for the love she has for her sister. Accustomed to being on stage, Krista’s talents have been seen in productions of For Colored Girls and in a theatrical series called The Hope Series. As Celie’s sister, Krista is a marvel. Her moments in “Lily of the Field” will take your breath away.

Small in stature but magnanimous in stage presence and vocal prowess, we have the exceptional honor of witnessing the incredible talents of a Miss Dallis Williams who makes a star in the role of Celie Harris. His duet “What About Love”, with Shug Avery, and the exceptionally powerful “I’m Here”, are delivered with power, grace and the greatest finesse. Reclaiming her body, mind and soul against all odds proves to be a powerful turning point for this young actress. Sticking it to the man is exactly what she needed to do, and she does it with enthusiasm. She should be exceptionally proud of her work here.

As Mr. (Alfred), Clinton CH Harris is the man everyone loves to hate. He’s bad through and through, and out of his hands every woman will care, but none are safe. I think the most intriguing thing about his character is the turn he takes in Act 2. Throughout, we see a man despised by everyone, trying to right his wrongs. His beliefs come to a head in a powerful solo moment in Act 2, “Celie’s Curse.” Here we see a broken man change for the hope of a better life. It’s a moving turn that will leave you speechless, and a moment that needs to be seen.

Edward Leonard is brilliant as Harpo. He provides plenty of comic relief and heart throughout his spell. He loves Sophia with all his heart and wants to do good with her. When he finally denounces his father (Sir), you see the real man he is destined to become.

As Church Ladies, Latoya McCormick, Andresia Moseley, Janesia Shanae and Sabrina Hamilton are the backbone and cornerstone of this small town. They know everything and act like the gossip of the townspeople. The opening number “Huckleberry Pie / Mysterious Ways” is stacked with outstanding vocals delivered by the ladies of the church and is a great opening moment, and probably one of the best I’ve seen in quite some time. time. The ladies prove they have the vocal prowess to back up even the toughest beats and Latoya can literally sing anything. The quartet is an exceptional addition to the company and a joy to watch from start to finish.

The set is full of exceptional talent, each of whom presented a unique and individual character to help tell the story of the city. The set includes standouts Topher Warren, Clay Christopher, Krystle Pitts, Tyrese Pope, Teia Watson, and Andrea Jean (who also has a big turn as Squeak). Each of the ensemble members lends wonderful characters to the story arc and provides exceptional voices that are unmatched here.

The best of the show goes to two people, Janelle Richardson as the undeniably beautiful Shug Avery and Syreeta S. Banks as the unrestrained Sophia. Each of these exceptional performers leaves everything on stage and leaves you on the edge of your seat wanting more. I’m surprised after the performance that the roof is still up, because these two women sang in the stratosphere, and I could listen to them all day. Shug’s standout moments from the night include “Push the Button”, “What About Love”, and “Two Beautiful for Words”, among others. Sophia’s standout moments include the big “Hell No” and a moment when she walks out of prison beaten and broken, and comes back to life with a laugh that will give you chills. These two women are serious and make exceptional turns in the company. Their performances like every member of this exceptional company deserve to be seen. No other cast breaks down barriers and tells such a cohesive story with the smoothest of lines.

By far the strongest company in the area for quite some time, and they deserve all the ovations because they leave it all on stage!

To deliver such a compelling story requires the strong hands of an exceptionally skilled director. Erica Sutherlin proves once again why she is by far one of the most sought after directors in the region. From delivering an exceptionally powerful and searing production of Passover at Studio 620, to The Dutchman at American Stage, to this production of The Color Purple, Erica has powerful storytelling and vision in all aspects of the shows that she directs. I think she puts it best in her Director’s Notes in the program saying,

“But the biggest ‘missing the target’ is our blind eye to see beyond circumstances and rejoice in Celie’s journey to self-love, self-acceptance, sexual freedom, self-ownership. – her journey towards her voice and her power. And not only Célie, but each of the female characters, who seek and discover themselves and the brotherhood between them. They learn that the love between them is more important than not no matter what disagreement, heartache or fight. That is the exceptional beauty of this piece, the joy and love between and beyond their circumstances.”

Erica delivers ten times here, and with the help of an outstanding team of designers and creators, The Color Purple is poised to be the hottest show of the season, and we’ll be talking about it for times to come.

Choreographer Rodney Hamilton puts this company to work with deft, intricate movements to drive the story forward. Each moment is synchronized with the next. One of the best moments/examples of the hard work showcased is during “Push the Button”.

The musical direction by the masterful William Coleman and the group of musicians provides the perfect setting for the singers. William Coleman and the band tackle the complex score with ease and allow each performer to have an individual moment to shine.

Technically stunning, The Color Purple, steps it up a notch in design elements and creates a beautifully rendered world for these characters to reside. Frank Chavez’s set design creates the perfect depiction of this world, and constructed by the masterful hands of Paul McColgan, James Swallow and Drew Eberhard, the set design of the world in which these characters reside is outstanding and functional in providing a lifelike depiction. of life at the time. Lighting Design by Brian D. Frey creates beautiful moments that seamlessly blend the harshness of the set with the softness of the lighting and the beautiful costumes of Frank Chavez. There is a moment when the flames seem to appear on set and create an exceptionally beautiful moment that must be seen.

Marsha Norman’s musical adaptation of The Color Purple is only on stage until September 25, 2022. You’d be doing yourself a huge disservice if you missed this performance. It’s the one I’ll remember for a while, because no other show has stuck with me and stayed with me as long as this production did. Be sure to visit stageworks.org to purchase your tickets today. If you’re looking for a story about love, resilience, and the fate of the human spirit in the face of adversity, then The Color Purple is just the ticket.

“Like the color violet, Where did it come from? Now my eyes are open, Look what God has done…” -La Compagnie de La Couleur Violette during “La Couleur Violette (Reprise)”

Photo credit: Stageworks Theater