The Color Purple in the city of Orange
Black History Month was kicked off in a big way in Orange last week. The Color Purple was presented at the Lutcher Theater Feb. 1 and 2.
There were powerhouse voices and performances on stage from Dayna Jarae Dantzler as Celie, Pam Trotter as Sofia and Taprena Augustine as Shug Avery.
What started out as a Pulitzer Prize winning book, then an Academy Award nominated movie, The Color Purple was then adapted for Broadway as a musical.
The story centers on a 14 year old Celie. Sexually and physically abused by her father, she was married off to a man she calls “Mister,” not in love, but in servitude. Mister wanted her younger, prettier, sister, Nettie, but that was not to be. Mister also had a life-long infatuation with Shug Avery; a torch singing vamp that had Mister wrapped around her little finger for years.
Celie also carried that infatuation with Shug from the first time she saw her. In time, a strong bond developed between the two women.
Sofia, a strong-willed woman who got her way and would not be subservient to any man married Harpo, the eldest of Mister’s children. The story also shows how she was beaten into submission, but came back strong in the end.
Set in the 30s in Georgia, the tale was of a young oppressed African American girl growing up in abuse. She bore and lost two children by the man she thought was her father.
Celie thought her sister Nettie was dead because she never got any letters Nettie promised to write. Celie felt like she was all alone.
With Shug’s help she turned into a woman who eventually learned how not to be a victim and became self-sufficient. Celie was also reunited with her beloved Nettie and Celie’s two children, Adam and Olivia.
It was a very moving performance, with strong musical offerings filled with gospel and blues tunes that brought much applause during the show and the audience to their feet quickly at the curtain call. “The Color Purple (Reprise)” sang after the cast took their bows had the entire audience swaying and clapping to the music.
Other noteworthy performances were given by Edward C. Smith as Mister, Lee Edward Colston II as Harpo, and don’t forget the Church Ladies, Nesha Ward, Virlinda Stanton and Deaun Parker.
Some of the standout musical numbers were “Big Dog,” “Hell No!” and “Brown Betty.” There are definitely future classics among the selections.
I’ve never read the book, but the musical closely follows the movie. Dantzler and Trotter certainly did Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfree proud.