By Chris Heide
Good art entertains. Great art is transformative and a vital piece of social commentary. The Color Purple, while not a perfect production, definitely falls into the latter category.
The 2016 Tony Award winning show recently debuted in Seattle. At first, I thought that a musical based on such a dark piece of literature was an odd choice. How can a musical balance the heavy nature of the course material while still managing to entertain it audience. Despite a few stumbles, The Color Purple manages to find a delicate balance between politically necessary and consistently entertaining.
For those who never read the novel in high school, The Color Purple tells the story of Celie (Adrianna Hicks), an African American woman who is the victim of systemic rape, trauma, and abuse. It's a deeply uncomfortable story- one that forces the audience to truly grapple with some of the more harrowing aspects of the human condition, as well as a story that sheds light on the experience of many African American individuals. Ultimately, the show transitions into a story of triumph, the darkness of the plot seems to permeate the entire show.
Musically, the show is well paced. Many of the production numbers draw heavily from gospel, blues, and soul musical influences. At a few point, some of the show seems to lag- party due to a few numbers that are notable lackluster. In fact, some of the most memorable songs come late in the second act (Miss Celie’s Pants & I’m Here).
While the show itself isn’t perfect, much of the cast is. Adrianna Hicks is impeccably cast as Celie. In fact, all three female leads, Carla R. Stewart (Shug Avery) and Carrie Comprere are strong, bombastic, and attention grabbing performers. These three women help elevate the source material, with each of them turning out scene stealing performances.
Overall, The Color Purple is not the best musical ever made. However, due to the seriousness of the story, as well as many of the impassioned performances, it is one of the most important musicals ever created. It is must-see theater.