Average Rating Given : 5.00000
|Alliance Theatre Company||1|
Reviews in Last 6 months :
|The Color Purple, by Marsha Norman M/L Brenda Russell, Allee Willis & Stephen Bray
It has its issues, but it is WELL on its way to making it BIG on Broadway!|
Friday, October 8, 2004 ||
I TELL A LOT OF THE STORY, SO IF FOR SOME GOD FORSAKEN REASON YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE COLOR PURPLE THE MOVIE OR READ THE BOOK (SHAME ON YOU!), THEN READ NO FURTHER...I TELL EVERYTHING IN THIS REVIEW! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK! (and ignore the typos...and it is quite long too...so take a seat, and grab some coffee)|
First off, if it was an option, I would probably give "The Color Purple" a rating of 4.5, but its not so I rounded up for the shear fact that this unforgettable movie was turned into an unforgettable production in front of my very eyes. Not to say that some of the songs don't need a little tweak (the series of prayers to God by both the young and old celie are a bit...um, choppy, both vocally and dramatically) or the story in ACT I needs to be reworked, but it is WELL on its way to make a HUGE impression on Broadway.
LaChanze completely impressed me. This is the first thing of hers I have seen, though I listen to "Once on this Island" a good bit, this was my first LaChanze live performance and she shined so bright! I think all of the actors aged very well, but especially her. You found yourself ear-to-ear smiles when Celie stands up in the car belts out "I'm Free" when driving away from her "slavery" of Mister. She was like a bird at that moment, and from then on you were all smiles (and for me, LOTS of tears...at the end!)
Felicia P. Fields, who plays Sofia, is brilliant to say the least! Never a more honest, and fun character, has walked that Alliance stage. Every little details was carefully thought out, then put into action inside a completely natural and grounded character for the audience to enjoy on so many levels. Ms. Saycon Sengbloh, who played Nettie, was at first strikingly beautiful. But then she sang, and angels flew out! She was fantastic, though I think the relationship between the sisters could've been developed a whole lot more. When they were ripped apart, I felt bad...but that scene seemed to come out of NOWHERE and it just looked a bit akward. I guess that was one of the only things i was missing from the play in the first Act...the immediacy of it all. I didn't feel for Celie as much as I thought I should've. I think more attention should've been brought to the severity of Celies abuse. Mister was rough with her, but not enough. I think making a little more of how she was abused (mostly physically, though I know stage fights can be akward) but I think I would've felt more for Celie if I really saw her go through some abuse.
And Mrs. Adriane Lenox...FORGET IT! UNTOUCHABLE as SHUG...DAMN! She can sing like an angel, then sing like a vampy trampy blacktress at a Jive Bar! She has it ALL, and she showed it all! She makes the PERFECT Shug, and the perfect object of affection for Ms. Celie and you can't help but get swept up in her energy, just like Celie (and Mister!). She exudes a maturity and playfullness at the same time, while making you still like her, though her actions aren't always nice.
I think Mister, like state before, could've been a LITTLE harsher towards Celie...just to really play up Celie's abuse and to contrast with his transition to "true" manhood in his final song of repentance for his wrongs (which was an okay song, but a little anticlimactic...like maybe were should've kept Celie on stage, not IN the scene...but as a reference point for the actor...something visual to give the song, and its dramatic intent, a point of reference. Does that even make sense to anybody?).
The songs were quite good, though again...the prayers by young Celie at the beginning and the older Celie's prayer after Nettie is ripped away, are a bit vocally choppy and thus chop of the dramatic intent. Those songs could be smoothed out a little bit, so we hear a more urgentness (is that word?) to Celie, instead of a small step up from a patter song...though LaChanze still did an amazing job. "You are too beautiful for words" is a song that ties everything together and I wanted a little more out of it...it was kinda short, though at the end when we are welcomed with a HUGE smile from Celie (the first smile since being with Nettie, which is a long time in the play) you can't help but smile with her.
The two HUGE triumph's for me were the title song and the love duet "What about Love?" between Celie and Shug (that latter being the most AMAZING duet I have seen on stage). "The Color Purple" song was a FANTASTIC song that left me, and ALL of my friends, humming...and even singing some lyrics...and THAT is saying something. When you can leave a show and sing some LYRICS, it has made an impression on you. It had the right amount of power, melody line and good ol' gospel sound to make you just a cryin' mess when the song was belted at the end.
So, now we come to "What about Love?", the heartwrenching joyous ACT I finale where we not only see the two in love, but we also find out Nettie is alive (damn, I'm tearin' up now!!!). I have very strong feelings about this number cause it was powerful enough, I just think it could've gone one step further, and I think I might have the answer (or at least a good option). The song is a beautiful duet between two amazing and powerful vocalists, who also have the show backed with their amazing acting abilities...and this is the PERFECT end to ACT I. They belt out and "sing to Jesus" as I say! The only thing is after the song is over, Shug gives Celie a letter from Nettie she found and we have that piece of information to heighten the drama! I think they could go one step further and have one more blow it out verse of the "What about Love?" song (maybe with Nettie singing too...that way we get the view, both visual and dramatically, of ALL the LOVE in Celie's life...both romantic and family love.). But at least another small blow out verse of "What about Love?" between Shug and Celie would've been a HUGE dramatic build to a blackout and a crowd of people convulsing in tears on the theatre house floor.
I think the set and lighting were ABSOLUTELY breathtaking. At points, I thought I was watching a movie, with moving clouds, amazing color and seamless set changes. It was a fantastic use of the space, color and the backdrop seamed to change like it was a blue screen to project many different scenes. Just incredible!
So, final wrap up here: First act needs some pretty MAJOR revisions to get past the expositional mud that we have to drudge through to get all the information (though I know its a difficult one, cause there is A LOT of exposition in this story...but SOMEBODY's gotta do it, right?!). The first act flow needs a boost, though the end of ACT I is brilliantly acted, sung and written. THe second act moves like a freight train and you can't help but laugh, cry, smile, cry again and sing in your seats!! The actors do a great job with these characters and though you remember the movie vividly, they never make you say "well, Oprah did it this way...blah blah" it is an amazing tale of true love, struggle, family and god and it can stand on its own as "The Color Purple: the MUSICAL" and Alice Walker should be VERY proud. I wish it the best of luck as it heads to broadway, may the critics be nice and crowds be plentiful. GOD SPEED CP!