"There's a sweet, sweet spirit in this place...and I know that's it the presence of the Lord."
As we watched the familiar story of Celie unfold through the amazing talents of Jeannette Bayardelle and equally outstanding cast, it occurred to me how much The Color Purple is a testament of the spirit. Going beyond racial hues, religious beliefs, and sexual preferences, this timeless work of Alice Walker unites us all under one label--human. And as human embodiments of God's spirit and creativity, we relate to some part of every character from Celie's beaten self esteem to Mister's desired forgiveness. So when we relate to one another spirit to spirit God is present.
Like most I've read the Pulitzer Prize winning book and have seen the Academy Award nominated film several times, but there's something special about witnessing this story on stage. Nothing compares to it. Performances "give you goose pimples" said the woman sitting next to me who also stated she had never seen the film adaptation. Throughout the play she responded to dramatic scenes with quiet emotion, but when Celie and Nettie were united, she openly wept. True story!
Let the spirit move you...
But there were just as many moments in the musical that generated happier responses. Tony Award nominee Felicia P. Field's (Sofia) singing of Hell No! earned enthusiastic applause as did her wonderful performances with stage husband, Stu James (Harpo). The chemistry between them seemed so real, I fell in love with Harpo and Sofia as a couple--something of which did not happen for me watching the film version because this Sofia is different. She's funny, sexy, and confidently moves her weight around like a woman of a lesser size, breaking the stereotypical mold generally created for full figured women.
While Fields represented the big, bold, and beautiful, former Destiny's Child member, Michelle Williams held it down for the pretty, svelte, and sexy as Shug Avery. Forget the "nice girl" images from music videos and sell out concerts, Williams in this role is raunchy, frank, and free-spirit. I literally "clutched the pearls" during her rendition of the bawdy Push Da Button not in offense but in sheer surprise and wonder. Such a response is just proof of how amazing she was in the role of Shug. If you missed her in Aida on Broadway, undoubtedly you'll see Michelle Williams as a leading lady who stands in the shadow of no one. Say her name, say her name!
Having understudied 11 roles on Broadway including that of Celie, Jeannette Bayardelle originally desired the role of Nettie. Obviously, God had other plans. A gospel singer turned actress, she used her "anointing"--as church folk call it--to the fullest to bring Celie to the stage. When she leaned way back and soulfully sang the lyrics of I'm here I felt it was her personal testimony, not just Celie's. So powerful was her delivery, that the audience erupted with adoring applause before finally giving her a standing ovation. To hear just a sample of what I did click HERE to visit her website at www.jeanettebayardelle.com.
Truly, The Color Purple: The Musical of Love is something you must experience in person. Hear the wonderful original music, see the great dance routines, costumes and sets, and most importantly feel the message of love touch your soul.
To get ticket information visit www.centertheatregroup.org or call 213.628.2772
Celebrity arrivals and a few after party pics: