Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for Fiction-winning novel The Color Purple.” was soon adapted to film. Re-adapted as a musical in 2004, with book by Marsha Norman music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, The Color Purple: The Musical has played around the country and elsewhere ever since.
This heartwarming story of a young woman’s coming into her own self after years of abuse and virtual slavery, aided and sustained by a few other good women and her own firm resolution has brought many an audience to its feet with applause and shouts of appreciation. It is little wonder that the rest of the run of current The Justice Theater Project production of The Color Purple is SOLD OUT. (Click here to check for open tickets due to cancellations.)
We were privileged to be present for that kind of joyful approbation two nights in a row in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi in Raleigh, with different principal performers both nights. This is a story from America’s South during the first half of the 20th Century.
A massive, two-tiered set designed by director Deb Royal easily accommodates the 70 or more ensemble players, sometimes spilling into the aisles from the back of the audience, and still allows for intimacy between audience and two or three actors.
It serves as shack, house, outdoors, juke joint, and bath room. It fills and empties smoothly and quickly thanks to Deb Royals’ staging and the choreography of Willie Hinton and Kristi Vincent Johnson, as well as Baba Chuck Davis.
From the dynamic opening to the rousing finale, this show is a non-stop roller-coaster of emotions from a cast of highly talented actors, dancers, and vocalists. Church soloist Lynnette Barber puts us in the mood from the outset with her immense voice which stirs the heart and invokes the presence of God Almighty.
Musical numbers range from the innocence of “Huckleberry Pie”, through the testosterone-laden “Big Dog” and the fervent adamancy of the women’s “Hell No!”, the title song, “The Color Purple” and the inspirational “I’m Here,” Celie’s final song.
Costumes run the gamut from utilitarian work clothes to the elegance of the church ladies in their showiest millinery to Shug’s brazen sensuous sheathes and the bold color splashes of the African dress, designed and created by Brenda Hayes. Tom Wolf’s light design enhances the action beautifully; but the sound amplification was a tad overdone, making some lyrics less than understandable.
We were specifically invited to attend performances in which several cast members alternated roles on successive nights, to be able to review both sets of performances. However, although the interpretations of the roles were different, the quality of performances were equal and outstanding. There were many notable moments, including the youngsters who flooded the stage occasionally to add to the festivities, always lively and in character, the “Church Ladies” who gossiped up a storm, the near-rape scene between Mister and Nettie, the duet “What About Love?” between Celie and Shug, “Miss Celie’s Pants”, by Celie, Shug, Sofia and Women, and “Any Little Thing,” duet between Harpo and Sofia. Both cast combinations are engaging.
The Color Purple closes out the 2014-15 ” Voices That Challenge” season at The Justice Theater Project, a fitting ending to a year’s worth of socially relevant shows relating to historical, racial and educational issues. JTP artistic director Deb Royals and her staff are to be commended for their contributions to our melting pot society.
SECOND OPINION: June 10th Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: about this show, click http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/the-color-purple/Event?oid=4370489.
The Justice Theater Project presents THE COLOR PURPLE: THE MUSICAL at 8 p.m. June 18 and 19, 2 and 8 p.m. June 20, 2 p.m. June 21, 8 p.m. June 25 and 26, 2 and 8 p.m. June 27, and 2 p.m. June 28 in Clare Hall at the Catholic Community of St. Francis of Assisi, 11401 Leesville Rd., Raleigh, North Carolina 27613.
TICKETS: All shows are officially SOLD OUT. Click here to check for open tickets due to cancellations. Tickets are $29 ($24 for students, seniors, and active-duty military personnel), except $19 per person for groups of 10 or more. BOX OFFICE: 919-264-7089, email@example.com, or http://www.etix.com/.
SHOW: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/899661200054701/.
2014-15 SEASON: http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/2014-2015-Season-of-Shows-.html.
PRESENTER: http://thejusticetheaterproject.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Justice-Theater-Project/29290766458.
VENUE: http://stfrancisraleigh.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Catholic-Community-of-St-Francis-of-Assisi/172774212838785.
NOTE 1: From 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 25th, there will be a $10-per-person catered dinner and discussion led by Dr. Sheila Smith McKoy, associate professor of English Studies at N.C. State University and editor emeritus of Obsidian: Literature in the African Diaspora. For reservations, telephone 919-264-7089 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. JTP says, “You do not have to attend the show that night to attend the dinner.”
NOTE 2: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Friday, June 26th, performance.
NOTE 3: There will be FREE childcare for the potty-trained children of holders of tickets to the 2 p.m. Saturday, June 27th, performance. To make a childcare reservation, e-mail email@example.com.
The Color Purple (1982 book): http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.com/nge/Article.jsp?path=/Literature/Fiction/Works&id=h-1243 (New Georgia Encyclopedia, compiled by the Georgia Humanities Council) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Color_Purple (Wikipedia).
The Novel: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Alice Walker (novelist): http://www.alicewalkersgarden.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=398542 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Walker (Wikipedia).
The Color Purple (1985 film): http://www.tcm.com/tcmdb/title/71239/The-Color-Purple/ (TCM Movie Database), http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088939/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Color_Purple_%28film%29 (Wikipedia).
The Color Purple: The Musical (2005 Broadway musical): http://www.colorpurple.com/ (official website), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=398534 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Color_Purple_%28musical%29 (Wikipedia).
Brenda Russell (music and lyrics): http://www.brendarussell.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=391911 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Russell (Wikipedia).
Allee Willis (music and lyrics): http://www.alleewillis.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=398541 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allee_Willis (Wikipedia).
Stephen Bray (music and lyrics): http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=90080 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Bray (Wikipedia).
Marsha Norman (book): http://marshanorman.com/ (official website), http://ibdb.com/person.php?id=7556 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsha_Norman (Wikipedia).
Deb Royals (director and JTP artistic director): http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/About-Us.html (JTP bio) and https://www.facebook.com/deb.royals (Facebook page).
Martha Keravuori is a life-long theater artist — an actress, director, and stage manager — in North Carolina, around the country, and overseas. She has a theater degree from UNC-Greensboro, and has been active in the arts in Raleigh for the past 40 years. Martha is the retired executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference. Chuck Galle returned to Raleigh last year after a 17-year absence. He was active in community theater for many years, and directed the troupe of maximum-security inmates at Raleigh’s Central Prison known as the Central Prison Players. In New England, he performed on stage, on TV, and in films. He is the author of Stories I Never Told My Daughter — An Odyssey, which can be ordered on his website: http://www.chuckgalle.com/. Chuck Galle and Martha Keravuori review theater for Boom! Magazine of Cary. Click here to read more of their reviews for Boom! Magazine and here to read more of their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.