From the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg comes a soul-stirring musical.
by Mike Woody
A friend of mine once got fired as a set designer for not producing anything. He didn’t make a scene. Get it? I had to get my joke out of the way now, because there is nothing light about The Color Purple. It’s very heavy; with some of the most intense, brazen, explicit scenes ever witnessed on the La Comedia stage. However, it’s also among the most emotionally powerful and splendidly acted shows that I’ve seen. Not to mention the stellar vocal performances. While The Color Purple isn’t exactly a feel-good joyride filled with show tunes, it is a theatrical masterpiece that deserves to be seen.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen the movie, The Color Purple, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Alice Walker novel, all I remembered is that Oprah Winfrey was in it. It’s a harrowing look at an African-American southern woman (Celie) struggling to overcome decades of verbal and sexual abuse to see worth in herself. The performance by Cecelia Monica-Lyn as Celie is so emotionally endearing that she could potentially be a Presidential nominee in 2020. All the suffering that Celie is forced to endure, the least of which is repeatedly being called ‘ugly’ by her husband is heart-wrenching. Monica-Lyn though possesses an inner light that shines through all the pain, especially when she sings. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find a performance on any medium (‘This is Us’ excluded) more moving than Monica-Lyn’s as Celie.
I give lots of credit to La Comedia for being bold enough to test the waters with a show like The Color Purple which covers some difficult topics. It’s chilling to watch domestic abuse and not so subtle references to rape, but they are real evils, and essential ingredients to this powerful story. Much like the most beloved roller-coasters, there are some frightening parts along the way, but when The Color Purple is all over, the response is ‘Whoa, that was great!’
The culprit of much of the evil is the whip-wielding Mister (Justin Emmanuel Parker), who excels at being a dastardly villain. His treatment of Celie is anything, but chivalrous, as every word he says to her is degrading. Though he has to settle for marrying Celie, Mister’s top choice is her sister Nettie (Tenna Torres). The siblings share a close bond, which Mister shatters by forbidding any further communication between them. A type of angelic glow seems to surround Torres, especially when she sings, sharing a voice that earned a spot in the top 20 on season 12 of American Idol.
If there was American Idol back in the time The Color Purple is set, Shug Avery (Kendra Guy), would have been a finalist. So would the trio of the three church ladies; Darlene (El More), Jarene (Sarah-Gloriel M. Ogayonne) and Doris (Samantha Renee’), whose voices are heavenly together. All of the singing in the show is superb. The set design also deserves some credit, as every transition is seamless and creates the appropriate atmosphere. One final note, the cast includes several Dayton natives, and a graduate of Stivers, which was nice to see
My wife and I both were very pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed The Color Purple. There is no denying that it’s one of the finest produced shows you’ll ever see with a cast that demands your respect with Broadway quality performances. The Color Purple at La Comedia through April 15 should not be missed.
The Color Purple is an inspiring family saga that tells the unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.
With a joyous score featuring jazz, ragtime, gospel, and blues, The Color Purple is a story of hope, a testament to the healing power of love, and a celebration of life. It was nominated for eleven 2006 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score.
Mike Woody is a life long resident of Dayton, and has a passion for writing, which is good because he doesn't excel at much of anything else, except eating.
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