REVIEW: Umbrella Stage Company unveils riveting musical, ‘The Color Purple’
How does one find faith when everything falls apart?
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple is a powerful and thought provoking historical drama that examines life’s true meaning, redemption, transformation, and the search for faith and love when all seems lost.
With stirring direction by BW Gonzalez, Nathanael Wilkerson’s lively music direction, and instinctively choreographed by Najee A. Brown, Umbrella Stage Company continues the Tony award-winning musical, The Color Purple by Marsha Norman through Sunday, June 4 live and in person at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. The show has two acts with one intermission and contains some mature themes. Some package shows also offer walking tours. Click here for more information and tickets.
Umbrella Stage Company could not have chosen a better time to bring this particular musical to the stage this year. The Color Purple celebrated the 40th anniversary of the acclaimed novel last year and the 1985 film directed by Steven Spielberg featured an all star cast including Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey. It garnered several Oscar nominations including Best Picture. This December, a musical film adaptation of The Color Purple will premiere featuring a multitalented cast including Taraji P. Henson, Halle Bailey, Fantasia Barrino, and H.E.R.
Having never read the book or seen the film, The Color Purple was an eye opening experience. It holds turmoil, peril, and cruelty, but it is also an extraordinary tale of miracles, transformation, humor, and unyielding hope exclaimed by a mesmerizing cast of powerful voices each with their own challenges to overcome. Walker’s dynamic characters possess a wealth of depth and complexity that deliver some astonishing twists and turns. The Color Purple features a powerful and Grammy award-winning score that infuses gospel, ragtime, jazz, and blues. The uplifting Our Prayer is gripping right from the start and the tapestry of moving numbers that follow makes the musical all the more enthralling.
SeifAllah Salotto-Crisobal’s impactful lighting design meticulously sets the tone in creative and multicolored pastels transforming Janie E. Howland’s modest wooden set equipped with whips and a silver barrel. Covering a 40 year range, costume designer Danielle Dominigue Sumi navigates various eras with finesse including culturally appropriate attire from muted to kaleidoscopic colors.
In 1909 rural Georgia, Celie at 14 is about to give birth. She finds solace in her buoyant and discerning sister Nettie in a beautiful depiction by Kayla Leacock. Their genuine camaraderie is sheer joy to witness as Celie navigates her own unmerited suffering. Nettie is one of many spiritually strong and often challenged women surrounding inquisitive, naïve, obedient, and shy Celie depicted remarkably by Shy’kira Allen, that teach her about resilience and fortitude. Kai Clifton is a powerful force as daring Sofia with a trailblazing attitude and demeanor rare of a woman in the early 1900’s as demonstrated in a sage and commanding rendition of Hell No! Crystin Gilmore holds her own power as captivating and liberated performer Shug Avery who breezes into Georgia on a whim bringing excitement, scandal, and humor to the town as demonstrated in an alluring rendition of Push the Button. However, Gilmore truly shines in quieter moments with her tender rendition of Too Beautiful for Words as well as the show’s heartfelt title track.
Shy’Kira Allen rises to the challenge as complicated Celie and though Allen has many memorable scenes with the cast, her most powerful scenes are the ones she must stand on her own such as in Lily of the Field, Dear God, and a brilliant rendition of I’m Here. Brian Demar Jones is impressive and deceptively charismatic as short sighted and egocentric Mister while Jordan Aaron Hall is likable as compassionate yet impressionable Harpo. Rural Georgia is an area not without its gossip and keeping the mood light in the midst of the show’s most difficult moments are the humorous and ever knowing Church Ladies, their clever vocal styling slick for Shug Avery Coming to Town and Uh Oh.
Umbrella Stage Company delivers Alice Walker’s message with such collective fervor, make time to witness this Color Purple.
Umbrella Stage Company continues the Tony award-winning musical, The Color Purple though Sunday, June 4 live and in person at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. The show has two acts with one intermission and contains some mature themes. Click here for more information and tickets.