Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel about Celie, a young black girl living in 1930s Georgia, isn’t the most obvious story to make into a musical. It’s a searing portrait of oppression, told from the point of view of a girl who is raped, abused, lied to, beaten and manipulated from a young age by the men around her.
But this Tony-nominated musical, which is performed for the first time in Europe at the Menier Chocolate Factory, taps into the qualities that made both the novel and Steven Spielberg’s film so popular, and it emerges as the tale of an everywoman triumphing over adversity, and a testament to the power of hope.
John Doyle’s canny direction has the wooden whitewashed stage bare except for some chairs at the back, which are used as seats and workmen’s tools. It leaves room for the story to unfold simply through a formidable 17-strong ensemble, who perform Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and Allee Willis’s wonderful and satisfyingly varied score of roof-lifting gospel, rhythmical jazz and throaty blues with remarkable clout.
Although there’s certainly the opportunity here, Marsha Norman’s script isn’t sentimental. There’s a lot packed in, and not much space left for detailed character development, which means it occasionally feels a smidgen lightweight. But the character that matters, Celie, is sharply written and her transformation from underdog to stable, strong-willed woman is subtle and convincing.
The petite Cynthia Erivo gives a deliberately slow-build performance as Celie. It’s a superb turn with a spine-tinglingly great climax that betrays her beguiling and impressive talent.
Nicola Hughes as Shug Avery and Sophia Nomvete as Sofia provide strong support, and both play up the piece’s humour well. Hughes in particular is excellent and brings out the allure of bisexual nightclub singer Shug, while also baring her fractured, wayward soul. Together, the three of them drive an ultimately uplifting and heart-capturing evening.
By Daisy Bowie-Sell
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Average User Rating
5 / 5
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Not having either read the book or seen the film this show was a real eyeopener.We had front row seats and for a start members of the cast shook us by the hand and welcomed us.We felt that although the whole cast were excellent ;the star of course was in a class of her own,both as regards her acting skills and her delightful and accomplished rendition of the songs.This show is superb and we cannot recommend it highly enough!! The colour may be purple but we shall rave about it until we`re blue in the face!!
A passionate , uplifting musical. I laughed and shed a tear. Amazing voices and harmonies.... one of the best I've seen
Loved this when I saw the preview, and had to return to see it again, which I have never done. Spine tingling singing and moving and uplifting story. Cynthia, Nicola and Sophie brilliant and great performances from all the cast , well deserved standing ovations. Would like this cast on a recording they were simply amazing.
Loved it. Huge fan of the film and was looking forward to seeing the musical here in the UK. The production was excellent and the performances Broadway quality. I highly recommend!
Absolutely loved this. Sensational cerebral soul food that plays havoc with the heart strings. 5 star review on the blog http://www.frontrowdress.com/2013/07/the-color-purple-menier-chocolate.html
Terrific Show - Beautifully Directed - Galvanising Performances - Great Ensemble - Powerful Singing - Well Deserved Standing Ovations. Well done John Doyle and his brilliant cast of actors and musicians - A MUST SEE SHOW