This past Wednesday evening, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing the current Broadway revival of The Color Purple. I went with a friend from work who I often see theatre with, andthese artistic experiences that we have together fuel all sorts of discussions and thinking that we do about current events, cultural trends, and social justice issues. Given our interests and past production choices, The Color Purple seemed like a great choice. The revival, directed by John Doyle, had received a positive review in The New York Times, and I personally was curious to see Jennifer Hudson. I wouldn't call myself a fan, but I'm interested when "big names" make Broadway debuts.
Well, within the first five minutes of the show, I knew we were in for it, in the very best way possible. The staging immediately set the tone for an experience that would be ensemble-driven and focused on storytelling. A simple scenic design kept our focus on the acting and the singing, and the singing was extraordinary. This company of performers may be the strongest group of singers I've ever seen on Broadway. A lot of power and precision, led by the incredibly gifted Cynthia Erivo as Celie and Jennifer Hudson as Shug Avery. Jennifer Hudson sang effortlessly, alone and in her duets with Erivo, and then when it was time, she stepped back into the line and blended beautifully with the other female ensemble members. Erivo stepped out and up, and suddenly we were presented with this extraordinary singing force, filled with powerful interpretation and nuance. It was there all along, but Erivo was so skilled at calibrating her performance to mirror Celie's journey, that when she revealed the depth and power of the character, the vocal matched it in a transformative way. Her performance is a master class in playing a character's arc, one that I want every one of my acting students to see. It was an unforgettable experience from start to finish.
I've highlighted Ervino and Hudson, but the entire ensemble deserves praise and recognition. All of the principals, including Isaiah Johnson (Mister), Danielle Brooks (Sofia), Kyle Scatliffe (Harpo), and Joaquina Kalukango (Nettie) are fantastic, and the company as a whole is great. After the curtain call, I heard someone say, "I've never been to a Broadway show where everyone could sing so well." Totally agreed. If you want to hear some power and moving voices, then you should get a ticket to this show. Pronto.
Unforgettable. And an absolute privilege to witness. Particularly in a season when one show is getting so much popular attention and praise. Well-deserved I'm sure, but seeing The Color Purple illustrated just how important it is that I pay attention to everything that's happening.
For bringing such joy and power and commitment to their performances, for showing what clean and focused direction and design can achieve, for sharing an amazing story that needs to be heard now more than ever, for stopping the show twice for standing ovations (Cynthia Erivo), and for giving me another evening in the theatre that I'll never forget, the cast and creative team of The Color Purple are the artists I admire for this week.