THEATER REVIEW: "The Color Purple" @ Proctors
Review by Greg Haymes
NOTE: The photograph is of the Broadway cast, not the national touring company which is presenting the show at Proctors.
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the stage musical of “The Color Purple” launched its national tour at Proctors in Schenectady this week, and the tale is far from a typical musical comedy. In fact, it’s not a musical comedy at all, but rather a musical drama, chronicling the trials and tribulations of Celie (Adrianna Hicks), a young black woman in the Deep South in the early 20th century.
And although her struggles are many and often seemingly insurmountable, the show is ultimately a rich and emotionally uplifting one, following Celie’s journey from passivity to defiance and independence. Unfortunately, the second act moves a bit too quickly and the motivation for her self-empowerment is never fully explained. Likewise with her husband, Mister (Grady Gregory), whose reasons for his shifts in attitude aren’t explored or thoroughly explained.
There are false noted in the music as well, penned by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. The singing is stellar throughout, and songs like “Hell No” (a tour de force performance by Carrie Camara as Sofia) and “Push da Button” (a bump ‘n’ grind roadhouse blues sung by Carla R. Stewart as Shug Avery) perfectly capture the spirit of the period gospel and blues styles. Unfortunately, some of the show’s songs – “Too Beautiful for Words,” for example – sound more like outtakes from a Whitney Houston album, much too contemporary for the period, pulling our focus out of the time frame.
Technically, the show hit on all cylinders from Ann Hould-Ward’s costumes (which evolve from dull and drab to vibrantly colorful to echo Celie’s journey) to director John Doyle’s deceptively simple set design (a towering array of angled, broken barn boards and mismatched wooden chairs that rise up from the stage to the overhead fly-space.
“The Color Purple” wraps up it runs at Proctors in Schenectady with two more performances – at 8pm tonight (Friday, October 13) and 2pm on Saturday (October 14).
Bob Goepfert’s review at The Saratogian
Steve Barnes’ review at The Times Union
Paul Lamar’s review at The Daily Gazette