The Colour Purple. Music & Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Ailee Wilis & Stephen Bray. Book by Marsha Norman. Birmingham Hippodrome to 20 July. 4****. Rod Dungate.

Birmingham

The Color Purple: Music & Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis & Stephen Bray: Book by Marsha Norman
4****

Birmingham Hippodrome
Runs: 2h 50m, one interval. Till 20 July 2019

Tickets: 0844 338 5000
Info and Tickets: www.birminghamhippodrome.com

Review Rod Dungate 18 July 2019
@ReviewsGate

True to its original, well performed but could do with some big numbers.

Color Purple is a faithful translation of the book and film to a Music Theatre Performance. It follows the emotional journey of young black woman, Celie; it is a tough life, peppered with abuse, but it is a complex story of love and learning to see your own beauty and the beauty in others. It’s a powerful story, told with honesty by a totally committed company. Greater clarity of storytelling, however, would be welcome The music is well crafted, reflecting the blues, jazz and gospel traditions of this community. But, in terms of large scale music theatre, the compositional team do not quite reach the heights that would enable Color Purple to be a great new musical.

This is shame, since there are plenty of opportunities, both in ballads and ensemble songs when this could happen. But it is as if the writing team are fearful that to push these numbers further would cheapen the truth inherent in the work; nothing could be further from the truth – the music carries the emotion more than any other element.

Indeed, it is the music that has the power to take us into the mind and heart of the characters.

T,Shan Williams creates the protagonist, Celie. It is an accomplished performance – warm and rounded. She has a powerful singing voice; how I wish she had been given greater chances to show off her considerable talents.

There high emotions, particularly from Joanna Francis as jazz singer, Shug Avery. And welcome humour, often around the gender role play, most noticeably from Karen Mavundukure as Sophie. Strong singing from the men, though some of the male acting is not as strong.

Color Purple is a most welcome addition to the music theatre repertoire. Perhaps, over time, the music flaws might be addressed; the seeds are there, what’s needed is a little judicious watering.

Old Mister: Geoff Aymer
Buster/Bobby: KM Drew Boateng
PA: Delroy Brown
Guard/Swing: Owen Chaponda
Squeak & Co-Dance Captain: Perola Congo
Nettie: Danielle Fiamanya
Shug Avery: Joanna Francis
Doris & Co-Dance Captain: Danielle Kassarate
Church Soloist: AnelisaLamola
Church Tambourinist& Fight Captain: JochebelOheneMacCarthy
Sofia: Karen Mavundukure
Mister: Ako Mitchell
Darlene: Rosemary Annabella Nkrumah
Jarene: LandiOshinowo
Harpo: Simon-Anthony Rhoden
Preacher/Grady: Jo Servi
Celie: T’Shan Williams

Director: Tinuke Craig
Musical Director: Alex Parker
Designer: Alex Lowde
Lighting & Projection Designer: Joshua Pharo
Sound Designer: Tom Marshall
Production Photographs. Manuel Harlan.

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