The Color Purple is one of those stories that is so powerful that it is made into multiple incarnations. It started as a novel in 1982, was made into an award-winning film in 1985, found itself gracing the stage as a musical, and is now being shown as a revival performance at Durham Performing Arts Center. Fortunately, across all these incarnations, the show has not lost its power.
Beginning in 1909, the play tells the story of Celie (Adrianna Hicks), a young black woman living with her sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara) and her sexually abusive stepfather. Still a young teenager, Celie has already fathered two children with her stepfather, who quickly whisked the children away from her and out of sight.
Celie’s life changes when she is sent away to live with “Mister” (Gavin Gregory). He is mean, orders Celie around, and worst of all, separates her from her sister. However, it is through him that Celie meets influential women who will eventually change her life and her understanding of the world. These women include strong-willed Sofia (Carrie Compere) and the beautiful Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart).
These characters move in and out of her life, their own lives changing in the process, and creating a newer, different Celie. The play follows her all the way to 1949, and it’s quite a journey, but to give away too much would give away the slow, beautiful unraveling of this tough-but-honest and oh-so-real story.
“Real,” in fact, is the perfect way to describe this production. Unlike so many other shows adapted for the stage, it does not gloss over the more difficult parts of the story or put a “happy” spin on some of the horrors it contains. It is brutally honest about the realities of Celie’s life and, by effect, the lives of so many women like her…ones who actually lived.
Also unlike a lot of “big stage productions,” the scenery and sets are minimal. Sturdy but wizened chairs, much like the women portrayed in the show, serve as everything from bathtubs to beds. Aside from those and a couple of baskets, the production is bare-bones, allowing the compelling story and the even more compelling characters to stand on their own strength.
And strength is certainly conveyed here. Hicks’ Celie is not overly self-pitying; the character’s strength surges through even in moments when Celie doesn’t know she possesses it. Likewise Compere and Stewart shine in their roles, and all have the voices to match. The male characters are well-portrayed here too, though this ultimately is a story about women and the strength and power they can come to possess.
The Color Purple is a strong and valuable story and still has a lot to teach audiences, making it a wonderful contribution to DPAC’s season.
The Durham Performing Arts Center presents THE COLOR PURPLE at 7:30 p.m. April 4 and 5, 8 p.m. April 6, 2 and 8 p.m. April 7, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. April 8 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TICKETS: $51.44-$163.50, plus taxes and fees. Click here for $20-$30 rush tickets and other DPAC Special Offers.
Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1073053.
GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
VIDEO PREVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqNDSZs09-CniiEqHJQKTQw.
DPAC‘S 2017-18 “TEN GREAT YEARS” SUNTRUST BROADWAY SERIES: https://www.dpacnc.com/suntrust-broadway-series-2017-18 and https://www.dpacnc.com/news/detail/announcing-suntrust-broadway-at-dpac-2017-2018-season.
THE TOUR: https://colorpurple.com/, https://www.ibdb.com/tour-production/the-color-purple–515750, https://facebook.com/ColorPurpleMusical, https://twitter.com/bwaycolorpurple, and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCqNDSZs09-CniiEqHJQKTQw.
TOUR CAST & CREATIVE TEAM: https://colorpurple.com/our-family/.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Saturday, April 7th, performance.
The Color Purple (1982 epistolary novel): 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 (Putnam County, GA-born novelist, poet, and political activist): http://www.alicewalkersgarden.com/ (official website), http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/alice-walker-b-1944 (New Georgia Encyclopedia, compiled by the Georgia Humanities Council), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/alice-walker-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 and 2015 Broadway Revival): https://colorpurple.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/the-color-purple-398534 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Color_Purple_(musical) (Wikipedia).
Study Guide: http://parksquaretheatre.org/wp-content/uploads/TheColorPurple2015.pdf (Park Square Theatre of St. Paul, MN).
Brenda Russell (music and lyrics): http://www.brendarussell.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/brenda-russell-391911 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brenda_Russell (Wikipedia).
Allee Willis (music and lyrics): http://www.alleewillis.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/allee-willis-398541 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allee_Willis (Wikipedia).
Stephen Bray (music and lyrics): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/stephen-bray-90080 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Bray (Wikipedia).
Marsha Norman (book): http://marshanorman.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/marsha-norman-7556 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsha_Norman (Wikipedia).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.triangleartsreview.com/, http://www.susiepotter.com, and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.