REVIEW | The Color Purple

4 July 2019

Photo Credit : Manuel Harlan

The Color Purple 
Curve Theatre, Leicester
★★

Curve Theatre is currently in the midst of exciting times with a hat-trick of productions in London's West End; On Your Feet!, The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 The Musical and White Christmas, all of which started at the Curve. Next on the list of Made at Curve productions is the inspiring musical, The Color Purple

In partnership with Birmingham Hippodrome, the stage adaptation of Alice Walker's novel is a story that will tug on your heart strings from start to finish. 

The musical's heavy message of solidarity, unity and our right to freedom of self-expression is ever more relevant and important. It also takes on The Civil Rights Movement and the rights of the LGBT+ community are also intertwined into this musical and there's definitely a lot that sinks into our understanding of Celie's story.  Celie (T'Shan Williams) a young black woman becomes a pillar of strength as she survives against the odds. This unforgettable story is told over a span of 40 years and brings a personal awakening to her unique place in the world she inhabits.  

Marsha Norman's adaptation of the story results in a vocally and visually gorgeous musical and one of the best pieces of musical theatre I have seen, ever. Norman has included very little dialogue into the production, leaving it to the songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray to carry the poignant weight involved in telling Celie's story. Although this is without a doubt the most effective way of portraying the emotive themes contained in The Color Purple. 

Photo Credit : Manuel Harlan
Photo Credit : Manuel Harlan
Although this musical is very emotional and hard hitting there is some good-hearted context. Shug (Joanna Francis) and Karen Mavundukure get some laughs from the audience. Previous productions haven't contained choreography so Mark Smith's movement influence is a layer that brings a rejuvenating sense of community that the musical most definitely needs. The snappy and cut back precision to his work is a real joy to watch and added power to some of the big numbers in the show. The staging design from Alex Lowde is stripped back to something almost simplistic but effective; with the idea of home being at the forefront of what are more mobile in-between scenes. 

T'Shan Williams' is stellar in her performance as Celie and is flawless at making an iconic character her own. She really embodies the growth in her character from surviving at the hands of her stepfather who rapes her and steals her babies to becoming a happy, independent and self confident woman. Williams does a jaw-dropping job in her performance of I'm Here. She sings it solo on an empty stage and boy the effect is spine tingling. It's no doubt that Williams is a force to be reckoned with from the get go and I'd watch it 100 times over for her performance alone. 

William's performance is not without the support of the entire ensemble who are terrific in the storytelling of the era and hardship too. Some of the other fantastic performances within the musical include Nettie (Danielle Fiamanya), Harpo (Simon-Anthony Rhoden) and Mister (Ako Mitchell). 


I highly recommend this world class production that allows us to experience a family chronicle that is set in a racially divided country. It enables us as an audience to celebrate life, love and the strength to stand up for who we are and what we believe in. 

Don't miss The Color Purple at Curve Theatre until 13 July. The Color Purple will also be performed at Birmingham 16-20 July. You can book your tickets here


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