Nominated for eleven Tonys and originally from Atlanta, The Color Purple is back in Atlanta making a huge appearance at the Fabulous Fox Theater. Originally produced by Oprah Winfrey herself, The Color Purple made its world premiere at the Alliance Theater in 2004. The show is now on its second national tour. The musical is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel written by Georgia native, Alice Walker.
The story takes place in Georgia from 1909 to 1949. The opening scene is a charming one with main character Celie, played by Dayna Jarae Dantzler, and her beloved sister Nettie, played by Traci Allen, playing a hand clapping game and singing. Celie is pregnant for the second time and goes into labor by the time the second song is over. During the second song, “Mysterious Ways”, the setting of the play becomes obvious. The costumes and the set of the production are perfectly filled with southern charm. All the young ladies and women are dressed in their Sunday best accessorized with matching gloves and large sun hats.
The one problem or defect of the play becomes apparent in the next major scene when Mister becomes introduced. It is a couple of years after the birth of Celie’s child. The problem is that the time change is not apparent. Having not seen the movie or read the book, it would be very difficult to comprehend the time that has elapsed because all of the characters look exactly the same and are also dressed the same way. Time just seems to fly in this fast paced musical, and a few cues would have been nice.
Other than Celie, there are two very strong willed women who contribute to the story’s meaning. First there is Sofia, played brilliantly by Pam Trotter. At the point Sofia is introduced in the play, Celie is married to Mister. She leads a sad and abusive life with Mister who has managed to cut the most important person out of her life, her beloved younger sister Nettie. Sofia is the soon to be wife of Mister’s energetic and fun loving sun, Harpo. Sofia is best described by her signature phrase in the musical “Hell No”. She does not take anything from anyone, and she plays by her own rules. Sofia remains a big part in the story, helping Celie see that a woman can get what she wants.
Lastly, there is Mister’s longtime mistress, Shug Avery, played by Taprena Augustine. Shug Avery represents sex, self-righteousness and exudes confidence. She is everything Celie is not. Celie and Shug grow attached and even begin to love one another. The play chronicles the journey Celie takes from battered woman to finally being able to stand up for herself, and it is a wonderful thing to watch.
The eleven Tonys The Color Purple has received were made apparent at the end of this performance. With strong characters and great costumes, The Color Purple deserved and received a standing ovation from the satisfied and teary-eyed audience.