Based on the 1982 original novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple The Musical was written by Marsha Norman and accompanied by music and lyrics composed by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray.
With the depth and strong themes throughout the original novel by Walker, the idea of the subjects transferring to a musical intrigued me. However, it certainly doesn’t disappoint. The musical score and strong cast bring this powerful novel into the Musical genre triumphantly.
Celie (Me’Sha Bryan) and Nettie (Aaliyah Zhane) start the story at the tender ages of 14 and 12. Celie has been systematically raped over the years by her father (KM Drew Boateng) and has two babies by him which he removes. Married off to a cruel widowed farm owner the abuse continues for many years.
As the musical develops Celie gains the strength to break free from her marriage and start her life again. Breaking free from a lifetime of physical and mental abuse takes strength and self-belief. This is reflected in the songs in which she begins quiet and timid where at times you struggle to hear some of the lines. However, by the end of the performance, she raises the theatre roof with a powerful performance of “I’m Here” which resulted in rapturous applause.
The stage starts life in the form of the inside of a large barn. On both sides house style, panelled areas move in and out as the scenes change from the local church, store owned by the girl’s stepfather and later into the successful trouser store created by Celie. Projected images showing the forest or corn fields depict the outside landscape surrounding the families. Set designer Alex Lowde’s thought and design techniques bring part of Southern America to the stage.
Director Tinuke Craig has bought the powerful novel to life through the staged musical without removing the hard-hitting topics that are present throughout the book. Dealing with rape, abuse and control is painful to watch yet the techniques used feel empathetic and considered how the victims would have felt. Theatre should be challenging and this production certainly is at times.
The long and bitter fight for Civil Rights spans many decades in America. Within the Theatre programme, there’s a comprehensive timeline starting in 1904 through to 2021 describing key or life-changing events that have taken place in the fight for equality. I think this is an extremely important timeline to have been included.
For more information about this touring musical and future productions at the Mayflower Theatre please use the links below.