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THE COLOR PURPLE

THE COLOR PURPLE

(National Tour)
Book by Marsha Norman; Music by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray
Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray
Based on the novel written by Alice Walker
Based on the motion picture by Warner Brothers and Amblin Entertainment Inc.

Dallas Summer Musicals

Direction and Musical Staging by John Doyle
Musical Director: Darryl Archibald
Associate Director: Matt DiCarlo
Scenic Design by John Doyle
Costume Design by Ann Hould-Ward
Lighting Design by Jane Cox
Sound Design by Dan Moses Schreier
Stage Manager- Christine D-Amore
Production Stage Manager- Melissa Chacon
Hair Design- Charles G. LaPointe
Associate Scenic Design: David L. Arsenault
Associate Costume Design: Christopher Vergara
Associate Lighting Design: Tess James
Associate Sound Design: Josh Reid
Associate Hair Design: Ashley Callahan
Fight Consultant- Tom Schall

CAST
Adrianna Hicks- Celie
Carla R. Stewart- Shug Avery
Carrie Compere- Sofia
N'Jameh Camara- Nettie
Gavin Gregory- Mister
J. Daughtry- Harpo
Darnell Abraham- Ensemble/Adam
Angela Birchett- Ensemble/Church Lady
Amar Atkins- Ensemble/Guard
Kyle E. Baird- Ensemble/Bobby/Buster
Jared Dixon- Ensemble/Grady
Erica Durham- Ensemble/Squeak
Bianca Horn- Ensemble/Church Lady
Gabrielle Reid- Ensemble/Olivia
Ensemble/Preacher/Ol' Mister
Clyde Voce- Swing
Nyla Watson- Swing
J.D. Webster- Ensemble/Pa
Brit West- Ensemble/Church Lady
Nikisha Williams- Swing
Michael Wordly-Swing


Reviewed Performance: 1/24/2018

Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Critic/Editor/Founder for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Here's a fun connect the dots story! In 2005 while I was in New York, The Color Purple (TCP) was in its preview run. So I rushed to get tickets only to see that LaChanze (Celie) was out that day. I had first met her during the run of the original Broadway production of Once on This Island. Her Color Purple understudy Kenita R. Miller went on instead, who just brought the house down. We met afterwards and through my choked tears expressed my praise of her work. Kentia and I would meet again when she was in Xanadu.

I returned back just a couple of days later and finally caught Lachanze's performance which was legendary. I told her that she will win the Tony Award, where she gave me the sweetest hug. That spring she did indeed win the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.

When TCP tour kicked off in Chicago (Oprah was a producer), turns out my dear friend Sheila Walker was the tour's Musical Director, and she wonderfully invited me to the show's opening weekend at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Afterwards she introduced me to American Idol Alumni LaToya London (Nettie), Destiny Child's Michelle Williams (Shug Avery), Jeannette Bayardelle (Celie) and Felicia P. Fields who portrayed Sofia. This was my second time to meet the amazing Ms. Fields as she was reprising her Broadway role that earned her a Tony Award nomination.

TCP which is based on the Alice Walker novel was workshopped in 2004 at the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia. The same theatre where Elton John's Aida and the new musical The Prom had their workshop runs. TCP would have its world premiere at the Alliance in September 2004.

Between its Atlanta workshop and preview run on Broadway, the entire Color Purple production went through major changes before its opening at The Broadway Theatre on December 1, 2005. It would run for 910 performances and recoup its $11 million investment within its first year on Broadway, and grossed over $103 million when it closed.

A mere ten years later in December 2015 the Broadway revival of TCP opened at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. This time around the three leading ladies were Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, TV star Danielle Brooks, and British import Cynthia Erivo. Just like LaChanze, Erivo took home the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. It also won Best Revival of a Musical. The production closed after 450 performances.

So now after two productions on Broadway, three national tours, and a highly successful run at the West End in London, it is now back on a 4th national tour, which Dallas Summer Musicals has brought to the Music Hall.

The immediate change you notice is the void of sets. The Broadway version had a massive tree dead center where the children Celie and Nettie played. As the evening went on, gone was Mister's house, the bathroom with the ivory tub, Shug's car, Harpo's Jut Joint, Celie's pants store, etc. But the two most striking set pieces missing were the gorgeous projections that showed Nettie's letters appear word for word as Celie read them out loud. The other was the grand opulence of the African lands Celie's children lived in that we see in Act Two, which were full of so much color, costumes, and dance.

Speaking of dance, while this is not a dance musical per se, there are a couple of a choreographed numbers, particularly "Push Da Button" and "Africa Homeland". In the Broadway and 1st national tour both were heavily choreographed with the latter paying great homage to African tribal dance. But in this version all choreography has been stripped.

The set for this new revival Scenic Designer John Doyle created three wooden walls that go far beyond into the fly rails. On these battered, weather torn walls with holes are endless chairs. A set of platforms connect to these walls. He has stripped this set down to the bare bones to give the piece an earthy, colorless, lifeless world for these characters to live in. Which is true giving the time period, thus the set bleeds constant subtext through the performances and music.

What Director John Doyle has done with the book and songs is tear away the family friendly layers that the original had. Doyle allowed the beautiful, but aching loss of love between Celie and Shug reveal itself with no hint of shame. He also gave the raw sexuality of Shug pour out with the number "Push Da Button". It was riveting to see the full company constantly appear on stage to serve as a Greek chorus to comment on the life Celie had. They were not just an ensemble, but the conscious and possibly even the voice from above trying to reach Celie to let her know he sees her. Now that's subtext!

Gavin Gregory as Mister steers clear away from any stereotype of an abusing man. He instead gave his characterization a mixture of anger, fury, and embarrassment in following the orders from his own father that left him confused. You see him fighting within himself - does he want to continue this pattern, as he has already passed it on to his own son Harpo. Gregory's Act Two transformation is soft and remarkable.

Stealing several scenes is Erica Durham as Squeak. A tiny beauty who when she first appeared on stage I thought she was Stephanie Mills! Durham uses her character's name to full comedic tilt, giving the audience some much need laughter when the musical went into darker emotion paths. She was a giggling delight!

J. Daughtry is another actor who provides the laughs as Harpo, a man who cannot control his woman (Sofia). It was very telling how Daughtry even recoiled when his father bellowed at him. That alone spoke volumes of the blistering childhood Harpo had. Daughtry has hilarious chemistry with Carrie Compere (Sofia), especially with their duet, "Any Little Thing".

N'Jameh Camara portrays Nettie, Celie's loving sister who is torn away from her because she fights off Mister's sexual advances. Camara has a regal stage presence that beams into the audience. When she finally gets to sing in Act Two with "Africa Homeland", you so wished her character had more songs written for her. Camara has an exquisite soprano voice. She carries Act Two with "Africa Homeland" with great authority and command. She is outstanding.

Carla R. Stewart is the luckiest cast member as she is the only one who gets to wear bright costumes (one in shimmering sequins). Stewart is Shug Avery, the sexy, sultry, hot chanteuse from Memphis. She will love anyone. A man, a woman, hell even a 19 yr. old stud who plays the flute! Stewart is proud of her body, every curve and swerve because she knows that's how she can make a song work. When she sings "Push Da Button", it got a tad warm in the music hall by the end of that number. Stewart and Adrianna Hicks (Celie) sing a heartbreaking duet with "What About Love?"

The second the audience heard the character name Sofia, laughter echoed all around. The role is so iconic thanks to Oprah Winfrey who originated it on film. Carrie Compere delivers a roaring tiger of a performance as a woman who refuses any man to hit her. When she sings her thunderous anthem "Hell No", you can't help but think of what is going on in today's social climate. The song had much more meaning and emotion. You could feel Compere pour every cell in her body as if she was speaking for every woman in that theater. Compere also matched her dramatic craft with hysterical comedy. Her delivery and pace was so spot on that no matter what she said or did, she had the audience guffawing loudly! Compere was superb in every way.

Celie (Adrianna Hicks) is black, ugly, and a woman (according to Mister), but as she says with great pride "But I'm here!" Adrianna Hicks gives a marvelous performance that was fresh, textured, and unique as the girl who was sold off along with a cow to an abusive man. Hicks had this rapid fire approach to her delivery of some lines that added extra laughs or emotional punch to the gut. You sincerely felt her love and affection for Shug (Stewart), so when they have that Act Two fall out, it is devastating to watch. They both are so in the moment you feel their hearts. Her scene work with Gavin Gregory (Mister) and Carrie Compere (Sofia) is acting artistry at its finest. Hicks has a booming soprano voice that is just unheard of. Each of her songs fills your soul, especially her 11:00 O'clock number "I'm Here". In that song, she throws every ounce of her body and emotion into that song, determined to make even God hear her. Um, I'm sure he did!

When Hicks and the entire company sing the final number, "The Color Purple" with those rich harmonies, crisp crescendos, and all that soothing gospel, this company raised the audiences' hearts so high in the heavens that they (or I) may never come down. I had tears streaming down my face as the final lyrics sung by this magnificent cast sang hit home for me:

Like the color purple (like the color purple)
Where do it come from (where do it come from)
Now my eyes are open (my eyes are open)

Look what God has done

I don't think us feel old at all
I think this is the youngest us ever felt, yes

Amen

Amen indeed.

Single tickets for the Dallas engagement of THE COLOR PURPLE, starting at $20 (pricing subject to change), are now on sale at DallasSummerMusicals.org or by phone at 1 (800) 745-3000. They can also be purchased in person at the Music Hall at Fair Park Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Groups of 10 or more get concierge service and can receive a special discount on their tickets. To book a
Group, please call (214) 426-4768 or email Groups@DallasSummerMusicals.org. Dallas Summer Musicals highly anticipated 2017-18 season will continue with ON YOUR FEET!, February 27-March 11, 2018; WAITRESS, March 28-April 8, 2018; LES MISÉRABLES, April 24-May 6, 2018; DISNEYS THE LION KING, June 13-July 8, 2018; LOVE NEVER DIES: The Phantom Returns, July 24-August 5, 2018; and closing
The season will be SCHOOL OF ROCK, August 15-26, 2018.

Single tickets are also now on sale for ON YOUR FEET! and LES MISÉRABLES and may be purchased online at DallasSummerMusicals.org or by phone at 1 (800) 745-3000. They can also be purchased in person at the Music Hall at Fair Park Box Office Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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