From Dallas Hyperlocal News Site DallasSouthNews.org
A talented cast brings Alice Walker’s classic The Color Purple to life on the stage of The Music Hall at Fair Park. Many felt that Steven Spielberg’s adaptation for the screen was as good as it gets, but since opening on Broadway in December of 2005, the play has proved otherwise.
The Color Purple is billed as “The Musical about Love” but I think it’s more of “A Musical about Survival.” From the moment I saw Celie and Nettie appear at stage right clapping hands, I leaned over to my wife and said “I’m already sad.”
But there wasn’t enough time for me to dwell on the Hell that Celie was about to endure, because immediately my spirit was lifted by the company performance of “Mysterious Ways.” For a moment I thought I was in church and it took everything in me not to stand up and start clapping my hands.
The play stands on its own, and I rarely found myself comparing it to the movie. But it was comforting to hear many of the famous lines that have been repeated over and over through the years:
You told Harpo to beat me?
All my life I had to fight….
You sho’ is ugly!
Until you do right by me…
When you think of all the horrible things that are a part of this story, you wonder why anyone would want to sing or dance at all. But the Tony Award nominated play brings laughs when they are needed and characters break into song at just the right time.
One thing I do appreciate about the play is that the male characters (namely Mister) have the chance to redeem themselves. Not that redemption is a must when it comes to art, but Spielberg’s Color Purple paints a God awful picture of Black men. Rufus Bonds, Jr.’s portrayal of Mister is at its best when the character is at his worst. But I still found myself enjoying the character getting his act together in the end. And Stu James’ Harpo was steady throughout, not the dithering coward on Spielberg’s screen, but more of a naive, henpecked, hard working brother.
Sofia is played by Felicia (Hell No!) Fields who earned a Tony nomination for her portrayal on Broadway. It’s obvious why she garnered such high praise. And Shug Avery is played by Angela Robinson, who is electric leading the entire company through “Push Da Button.”
But this is a play about Celie, and Kenita R. Miller is more than up to the task of leading the way. Throughout the night I tried to picture Fantasia in the role and it was difficult, maybe because the two actresses are so physically different. Miller’s vocals were amazing, and her solo “I’m Here” was a signature moment of the show.
The one negative of the evening came in the form of technical problems with the sound system. There was a crackle that came through the speakers on more than one occasion as some of performers spoke their lines during ACT II. But it wasn’t enough to take away from the enjoyment of the crowd. After the show, attendees (including us) sang the show’s praises in the halls out, out the doors and all the way to their cars.
The Color Purple has seven more performances, ending its Fair Park run on January 24th. Tickets are available online at www.ticketmaster.com. If anyone asks if they should skip out and catch the show another time, I’ll have two words…..Hell No!.