Broadway Review: “The Color Purple”

I did not think that I would like “The Color Purple,” on Broadway. When my Arts of New York City professor announced that we were going to see this show when reviewing our syllabus back in August, I was disappointed. Why couldn’t we see “Aladdin”, or “Kinky Boots,” or “Hamilton?” When I think ‘Broadway,’ I think upbeat, positive, and fun, and “The Color Purple” is none of those things. It is so much more.

It is empowering, strong, and beautiful. Following a young African American woman, Celie, in rural Georgia, the show is a masterful recreation of life during the 1930s. Celie endures abuse after abuse, losing everything, and becoming estranged from her sister, from God, and from herself. Watching Celie push through every horrific situation, creating new relationships while struggling to maintain her old ones, is both terrifying and empowering. Cynthia Ervo brilliantly brings Celie to life, and is the most enchanting actress that I have ever witnessed.

There is little stage decoration, which leaves much of the interpretation to the eyes of the audience and the performance of the cast. The costumes are bland, old fashioned, and neutral colored. All of this draws attention to the performance, where the attention belongs. There are elements of humor, raw emotion, happiness, hope, and despair, all woven into the story to give it a continuously interesting flow.

There are reasons to hate and love every character and to laugh and cry throughout the entire performance. The whole experience renders such a confusing emotional response that it is impossible to really react. All I know was that at the intermission, I was heartbroken, waiting anxiously for the stage to come back to life. And forget about my reaction at the end; I was a mess.

The saddest part of the whole thing? The show is closing. In January. Go!

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