“The Color Purple” is Beautiful and It's Here

“The Color Purple” is Beautiful and It's Here

Cynthia Erivo as Celie (©Matthew Murphy)

There have been few shows that have positively impacted me as much as the revival of “The Color Purple.” This musical, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, tells the powerful story of a young woman named Celie (Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo) and how she grows up and survives less than ideal circumstances including separation from her sister, a forced marriage and constantly being told she’s less than.

Though Celie faces constant opposition on her journey to discovering her self-worth, “The Color Purple” is an uplifting and inspirational tale. Yes, Celie is the one who learns that loving and accepting yourself is more empowering than someone else’s opinion, but the audience is right there with her and feels this positive change too. I have read “The Color Purple” before, but seeing it in person made it more real. Seeing Celie’s reactions to the adversity she faces genuinely moved me and that is 100% because of Erivo’s masterful performance.

In her Broadway debut, Erivo reprises the role she played in London in 2013—and watching her on the New York stage is a privilege. It hurt witnessing other characters trying to keep Celie down when you could see this woman’s strength and compassion bursting out of her at all times. Whether Celie was silent or speaking her mind, Erivo’s intensity was palpable and commanded attention. I hung on her every word, movement and song, silently telling myself to remember every beat because this was beyond special. By time Erivo belted out Celie’s anthem, “I’m Here,” I was a mess of tears. She’s beautiful—Celie and Erivo both—and she’s here.

Also beautiful—this entire production. Erivo is surrounded by an equally talented cast at all times. Tony nominee Danielle Brooks (Taystee on “Orange is the New Black”) as Sofia brings equal amounts of humor and righteousness to the show. This wonderfully feminist character reminds Celie and anyone within earshot that no man has any right to abuse a woman. Grammy and Tony winner Heather Headley plays Shug Avery, the one person Celie feels attraction toward. Headley and her crazy-amazing vocal control shined on stage and will continue to do so until early October. (Tony Award winner Jennifer Holliday will be stepping into this role on October 4.)

(l-r) Heather Headley, Cynthia Erivo and Danielle Brooks with the cast of "The Color Purple" (©Matthew Murphy)

I appreciate how “The Color Purple” has such an understated set. Besides the stunning wall of wooden chairs, a few baskets and some long pieces of fabric, the stage is practically bare, but never empty. Director John Doyle’s minimalist choices are similar to his previous productions of “Sweeney Todd” and “Company” and equally effective. There is no need for lavish set pieces with the quality of performances this fantastic cast of actors are giving eight shows a week.

This revival of “The Color Purple” is one of the best shows I’ve seen on Broadway—this year or ever—and I will be forever grateful for this theatergoing experience. Thank you to the cast and crew for sharing your gifts with the rest of us. “Like the color purple, where do it come from? Now my eyes are open. Look what god has done.” You are the color purple. You are “The Color Purple.”

“The Color Purple”  continues to play at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on West 45th Street. Get your tickets here.

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