“The Color Purple” seems to be a story we all know. If not for Alice Walker’s book of the same name, but Steven Spielberg’s hit film that has become part of The Black Cinematic canon. Millions around the world can quote lines from this story quicker than they can count by fives! After years of touring on Broadway, rising star, Joyce Licorish; has stepped to the plate to once again bring The Color Purple musical to the masses. Over the weekend, Kontrol Magazine was privileged to cover what might have been one of the best performances in the history of this musical. What about Fantasia? Or the original tour? You might ask. Sure they were more widespread and on bigger stages, but the sheer talent and closeness of the cast has made them skyrocket to the top!
The event took place at The Earl Smith Strand Theater in Marietta, Georgia. The theater is old schooland was reminiscent of theater houses in the earlier part of the Twentieth Century. As we attended the second show, patrons and supporters of the play emerged from the auditorium in tears and cheering for the production. Just from talking with a few of the people who had seen I could tell I was in for a treat. Beforehand I met with the cast and learned a little history behind the formation of the production. Their hardest role to cast was that of Harpo (they were on their third one), the actress who played Celie lived in a small town outside of Indianapolis and drove nearly three hours back and forth for rehearsals, and finally one of the dancers took a flight out the day of his grandfather’s funeral to be apart of the production! As you can see these people were DEDICATED and it showed in their work!
The play falls more in line with the book than the movie. Characters that were minor or secondary in the film are given greater roles and more of a back story. A few surprises you might find are that Celie and Shug were actually dating and in a relationship after she left Albert, the song “I Am Here” was song to Shug when she told Celie she was leaving her for a 19 year old flute player named Jermaine, and Albert amended his ways and proposed to Celie! Every single member of the cast was stellar, but I particularly enjoyed “The Church Ladies.” The shade they were throwing was enough for an eclipse! Joyce Licorish is quite the powerhouse as “Sofia,” she brings a warmth, humor, and softness to the character that you have never really seen. Deaon “Forever” was hell as “Mista/Albert” you never get tired of hating him or fearing him as he walked around with that bullwhip. His raspy voice made his character all the more intimidating! I have never seen a “Celie” as pretty as Makeda Grier even with all the makeup to dial her down. Her voice is angelic and acaptivating! The way she harmonizes and brings strength to every song she bellowed tells me this girl needs a record contract ASAP! Izzy A’More is “Harpo,” and indeed it seems like they got a great one the third time around. I am sure if Harpo was a real person he would want to look and sing like him. This Harpo was a man, and this fact was reiterated when he picked Sofia up! You cannot have The Color Purple Anything without Shug Avery and Dee Duvall definitely did her justice. That body, that voice, those arms, give you Beyonce-style “Fever!” Finally, Lakeshia Lorene was wonderful as “Nettie.” She and Makeda together are quite the duo. I love how Nettie’s journey in Africa is presented through song and dance it somehow made it so much more authentic to the roots of the story.
Needless to say this is a cast that got nothing short of a standing ovation. Despite any negativity the universe might have thrown to try and impede the production they all lived by the mantra, “The show must go on!” and even donated a portion of their proceeds to a local shelter for victims of domestic abuse. I cannot wait for The Cupboard’s next production. You can be sure I will be on the front row with a few dozen friends and family members in tow! The musical only reminds you with that heartache and longsuffering are sometimes God’s way of coloring you–giving you a reason to be admired—and not for your beauty or anything shallow, but for your testimony. Let the church say Amen!