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Color Purple triumphant
Color Purple triumphant
by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

The Color Purple
Paramount Theatre
Through December 28


Triumphant! It's the only word to describe the performance of The Color Purple, the musical, which opened December 16 at the Paramount Theater. The show brings to life the next incarnation of Alice Walker's magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Bringing out more elements of romance and relationships than the beloved and acclaimed 1985 movie, the musical stays closer to the book for what should now be to most an unforgettable story.

Set in rural Georgia throughout the early 1900s, the story is told by Celie, a "poor, black, ugly" and uneducated girl and is about the remarkable relationships that she forms with the woman around her. Through consistent abuse first from her father and then her husband, Celie sees her two babies taken from her arms and her sister Nettie driven away from her. Celie lives in constant fear of her husband - not even knowing his name until Act II - with consistent maltreatment until her husband's mistress, Shug Avery, arrives. It is then for the first time Celie experiences love and eventually finds her place in the world.

Jeannette Bayardelle, who took over the role on Broadway, plays the part of Celie with charisma and great strength. Her emotional range shines and she allows the audience to feel her pains and sorrow without raping our sympathetic emotions. Her voice holds a strong clarity that cradles us with the shyness and doubt of her abusive beginnings yet brings us to full breath when she triumphantly stands on her feet.

Rufus Bonds, Jr. plays Mr. (Albert), the man Celie is forced to marry. His character is not likable, but the actor plays it very well. The strength and cruelty Mr. shows Celie is only a reflection of what the character has known. Rufus Bonds, Jr. does an excellent job showing us all the negative aspects of a victimized man, but he excels when his character transforms, sharing his redemptions with the audience.

Angela Robinson plays the woman that liberates Celie emotionally, romantically and physically, the blues singer Shug Avery. She also took over her role on the Great White Way and is a beautiful woman with a great singing voice. Her body gestures implied all the sassiness that should accompany such a character, but her voice tones and attitude lacked a certain raw quality that has become the backbone and strength needed for Celie's rescuer, redeemer and lover. She seemed a bit too refined for a character that supposedly wavers between hitting the bottom of the barrel and performing with the best.

Felicia P. Fields reprises her Tony-nominated role of Sofia. Like her predecessors in either the book or the movie, the character is a force to be reckoned with. From the moment she walks on stage, her strength barrels through and there is no doubt to the limitless resourcefulness she pulls through to endear life. The audience responds to Felicia's presence - sometimes with verbal commentary - and we're grateful for the lighthearted portrayal of the character & until Act II. In the second part, Felicia shows us why she earned her Tony nomination. She makes us feel her pain as she suffers her tribulations, while she does not hesitate to allow us to enjoy the jubilation of her character's return to life.

The music and lyrics were co-written by a trio of impressive talents. Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray have worked with some of the greatest stars including Madonna, Tina Turner, and Lily Tomlin, to name only a few. Their collected talents produced not only an eclectic array of blues, grassroots and soulful bases for the musical The Color Purple, but also earned them a Tony and Grammy nominee in 2007 for their collaborated work.

The book is written by Marsha Norman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her drama 'Night Mother and a Tony for her previous musical The Secret Garden. While bringing out more of the romantic nature of Celie and Shug's relationship, the script seems to move at a very quick pace. If anyone is not already familiar with the storyline, they could be a little slower in making the jump between scenes. This isn't necessarily the fault of the scriptwriter. Although the original novel is told through an epistolary format, it is a quick read, but very detailed with its characters. With a running time of nearly three hours (with intermission), there really isn't much anyone could cut from the musical's script without damaging the power of the story.

The Color Purple, the musical, is a highly enjoyable night of theater. It does what a musical ought to - allow us to go on an emotional journey, escaping on the back of decent melodies - and more, as it exposes us to horrific truths while allowing us to share in triumphant jubilation and redemption. The songs become a mutable character, themselves blending gospel, blues and beautiful ballads that will direct each audience member to the gift stands to buy the cast recording.

The musical version of The Color Purple began previews on Broadway November 1, 2005 having its official opening a month later. It ran for over two years and more than 900 performances. It earned 11 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical and Best Supporting Actress of a Musical but only won Best Actress in a Musical.

SPECIAL TICKET PRICING
For the Christmas Eve matinee and Christmas Day evening performances only, select seats are now half-price: remaining main floor and first mezzanine seats are $35 and remaining second mezzanine seats are $25. Half-price tickets can be purchased either online at www.broadwayacrossamerica.com or www.theparamount.com or one can go to the Paramount Theater Box Office. Patrons must use the password "holiday" when ordering tickets.

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