When I was a little girl, I was forbidden to watch The Color Purple, which is based on Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker’s 1982 best-selling novel of the same name.
My mother said it was too racy for a child to watch. Later, my Aunt Gloria sat down to watch a double feature, The Color Purple and Sarafina. We all piled into the sitting room and curled up for the film. I never made it past the purple flowers. I fell asleep.
By the time I woke up, Celie was being reunited with her kids. So, in my child’s mind, I figured The Color Purple wasn’t much to write home about.
As an adult, this week I had the pleasure of attending the opening night production of The Color Purple at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and I loved it.
The story is of a woman’s struggle to love herself and be loved. As usual, the Arsht Center was packed with people dying to see the Broadway show.
This event is the hottest ticket in town. Now, whether you should chance the nosebleed seats (the really, really, really good seats are sold out) will be addressed later in this article.
As you may recall, last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Ms. Celie herself, Kenita Miller. It was a phone interview, so I gauged the actress’ personality by her voice, which is powerful, yet a little innocent.
What I didn’t expect was to see a petite woman on stage with the loudest voice in the room. This happened in Miami, so you know the room was loud enough as it is with just the natives.
Miller has such strong pipes that it is obvious why she was picked for this role after first toiling as an under study.
But Miller isn’t the only one in the cast with a strong voice. Felicia Fields as Sofia is already a big, boisterous woman/character. Her “hell no” to abuse from male characters in the show is the deep-voiced women’s anthem heard around the country. The different ways she finds to say the phrase is interesting enough. Coupled with her ability to bring her cadence to a deep crescendo makes her a fine singer; and she’s quite the flexible dancer, if I say so myself.
I’d also like to mention Yolanda Wyns as a great church soloist. Angela Robinson’s Shug Avery brought the best friend/vixen out of her character. Robinson made Shug more of a real person, more down-to-earth, than some apparition put on a pedestal by Mister.
And Harpo has a sexy makeover in Stu James. His glisteningly ripped body excited quite a few audience members of the female persuasion, and even some males.
Now, there are quite a few things that I love about this play, other than the great singing and acting. I like the direction Gary Griffin took this story. He brought out a comical side to the film that was always there, but had audience members scared to laugh because of the subject matter. Griffin also fills in some plot holes that I had been wondering about.
I’d also like to mention the costumer designer, Paul Tazewell, for doing a fabulous job on the wardrobe of the ladies and men, especially the ladies. I loved his attention to detail when it came to shoes. John Lee Beatty did an excellent job on the scenery design. It is fluid, and really puts me back in the setting of the play. It draws me in.
Last, the choreography was above par. The dancers were quite professional in style and fluidity of movement.
Now, I’m not one to like musicals. I’ve always found it odd and unnatural for people to break into song at the oddest times. But I loved this musical for the most part. I just think it’s a little too over the top in some areas. Like, at the end of Act Two (Spoiler Alert!), when Celie has found her sister’s letters. It’s not necessary for her to go into convulsions. Nettie will still be in Africa after Celie heaves herself up from off of the floor.
All in all, this is still an enjoyable experience. I enjoyed the film many years ago, in my adulthood, and I enjoyed this musical. So, to address an earlier statement, yes it is worth spending the dough on nosebleed seats, because you don’t want to be the only person who hasn’t seen Sofia/Fields sing “Hell no!” or give the famous Oprah line that Tyler Perry can’t get enough of.
Photo by Paul Kolnik. Actresses Kenita R. Miller (Celie), left, and LaToya London (Nettie), right.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Color Purple
WHEN: Through Nov. 1, 2009.
WHERE: Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, 1300 Biscayne Blvd. Miami
COST: $25 to $72; Parking $15 to $20