The Color Purple retains its timelessness in 2017

By KELSEY KO | October 26, 2017


PUBLIC DOMAIN A rendition of The Color Purple came to The Hippodrome this October.

I have pretty terrible luck. So when I was informed by the Office of Multicultural Affairs that I had won $15 tickets to see The Color Purple at the Hippodrome Theater — with a Q&A session with the cast afterwards — needless to say, I was pretty stoked at my good fortune.

On Thursday night I braved my fever and illness and sat in my nosebleed balcony seats in the Hippodrome to watch Celie’s world unfold before me.

The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s acclaimed 1982 novel of the same name, is a musical that follows the stories of African American women in 1930s Georgia.

In particular, the audience learns about the life and struggles of a poor, young black girl named Celie (Adrianna Hicks).

We are introduced to her and her sister Nettie (N’Jameh Camara) when they are young and innocent.

The story starts to unfold when Celie is married off to a much older, abusive man who goes by the name of Mister (Gavin Gregory).

The best part about The Color Purple was witnessing the transformation that each character goes through on stage.

Celie goes from being a battered housewife who is scared to fight back, to walking away from her abusive marriage and starting a business.

We watch Sofia (Carrie Compere), a woman who has been fighting against abuse throughout her whole life, teach Celie how to say “hell no” to men who try to knock her down.

There’s something awe-inspiring and powerful about watching a story that is specifically about women of color and the struggles that they face unfold.

We also see women of color loving and empowering other women of color as Celie navigates through her confusing, romantic feelings toward Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart) and as Shug helps Celie leave her abusive marriage. I’m thankful that a musical that so unabashedly tackles these subjects exists.

There’s also something to be said about Celie forgiving Mister, her abuser, at the end of her transformation.

Even Mister is treated as a three-dimensional character, and the musical explores how he became an abuser because of his own terrible childhood and violent father.

Kudos to The Color Purple for doing all it can to understand the humanity in each of its characters and examine the “why” of each character’s behavior.

In the context of our current political climate, The Color Purple’s storyline feels timely.

In all honesty, it was incredibly difficult to watch the female characters endure sexual harassment and domestic violence onstage.

Especially considering all that has been going on with Harvey Weinstein and the women who have spoken up against him in the news along with the #MeToo movement on social media, seeing the women of The Color Purple stand up against men felt like a mimicry of reality.

In this way, there’s a certain timelessness and universality to this musical, which takes place in the 1930s and debuted on Broadway in 2005 but contains themes that remain so relevant in 2017.

Maybe its relatability to modern audiences is a testament to how work must still be done.

During the Q&A session, Carrie Compere (who played Sofia) brought up how people often fear black men because of how they are portrayed in the media.

However, when audiences watch black actors come together to create something beautiful onstage, it has the power to change people’s perceptions of people of color.

I 100 percent believe that I witnessed something magical on that stage on Thursday night.

When Adrianna Hicks sang Celie’s show-stopping number “I’m Here” in Act II, I looked over at my friend and her face was wet with tears.

There’s something about the right musical that has the power to bridge across divides and differences and touch the heart.

For those sparkling two hours in the Hippodrome, we were all lost in the world of The Color Purple.

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