Alice Walker’s deeply moving novel , The Color Purple is a story of community, connection, and the need for time with loved ones – so it touches many nerve centres in this 3rd of lockdowns. This Tony-award winning musical theatre interpretation by Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray will just blow you away with its power, dignity and beauty .
T’ Shan Williams is absolutely astonishing as the virtually enslaved Celie , who by the age of 14 has given birth twice and whose father seems to be the childrens’ father too. It’s a strong start and the storyline weaves in and out of the lives of strong women of colour – Celie ; her sister Nettie ( Danielle Fiamanya ) who becomes first an exile and then a refugee, and two feisty women who provide humour, pathos and warm sentiment . Karen Mavundukure is Sofia, a big-hearted mother of many, who proves she can hold her own in a world of male dominance . And there’s Shug Avery ( Carly Mercedes Dyer ) , a blues singer who falls onto the stage in her first scene of drunkenness , but who proves more than a match for any man she encounters and who struggles to requite the lesbian love and affection that Celie shows her.
By and large the men portrayed here are feckless, cruel, violent and uncaring – embodied in Ako Mitchell’s Mister.
But this is above all a story of redemption , and there’s even a place for Mister at Celie’s final scene picnic some 30 years after the show’s opening sequence.
The songs are a fusion of jazz, Ragtime, blues, gospel and African originals and Mark Smith’s highly engaging choreography gets into the inner soul of the rhythms and the emotional life of the characters and Tinuke Craig’s in-the-round direction is quick-paced, moody and takes us to the very heart of the story. Alex Parker’s musical direction is pitch perfect at every moment.
The reuniting of the Curve, Leicester’s original 2019 cast brings a rare kind of chemistry and electricity to the show, and though it’s billed as a concert, for me it seems fully staged except… well except of course the performers have to keep a statutory distance . By the finale you die for a hug, a kiss or even just a touch of the hand. But it’s a small price to pay to have this show in front of us.
This collaboration with the Birmingham Hippodrome would doubtless have had a good run and even maybe a transfer, but we get to see it online till March 7. Don’t miss the opportunity . It’s a 5-star triumph.
Tickets at curveonline.co.uk