Upon hearing of Tacoma Musical Playhouse’s (TMP) presentation of “The Color Purple: A New Musical,” my initial reaction was, of course, “How can they successfully pull this off?” Being used to the more light-hearted and family friendly performances by TMP, it was a surprise to see such a powerful, emotionally invoking and profound story being attempted. A Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, which later was adapted into a film directed by Steven Spielberg in 1985, “The Color Purple” follows the life of Ms. Celie in a story filled with adversity, hope and uplifting songs that keep you immersed in the plot from beginning to end.
For those who have seen the movie or read the book and are looking for a more tamed version with new elements and humor, I highly recommend this play. Though some major details and scenes from the original story line are not addressed, there are new scenes and gripping vocals and choreography that bring in a new perspective. Nonetheless, there is enough original plotline for those who have never seen the movie or read the novel to get a sense of the story as a whole on a calmer scale.
The biggest renovation to the story line is the addition of musical numbers and dance performances. Overall, these greatly add to and emphasize the story’s plot line, making the characters’ emotions even more understandable to the audience members. The vocalists, whether comedic or emotional, have a gripping effect that allows you to feel the lyrics and entirely put your focus on them. The music, along with the combination of great ambiance of the backgrounds and colors, makes you feel like you’re a part of the story.
The acting is phenomenal. Each actor and actress completely embraces and invokes their character no matter what the circumstance or stage mishap. They involve the audience and portray emotions so well that you yourself may very well feel what they are feeling. This play will take you from laughing to crying all while being in awe of the movement and liveliness of the group dance scenes. It’s obvious that the cast fully commits to their parts and from it, the audience is able to connect with them more and grow with them as time goes on.
Of course, all shows have room for improvement. This was a good stepping stone for TMP in producing musicals outside of its typical arena. Had more plotline from the original story been kept, as well as more smooth and emphasized time progression, I feel the play would have been even better. Overall, I feel TMP created a more approachable version of “The Color Purple.” Though there was some crudity portrayed, it was in moderation and enough so that violence wasn’t the entire focus of the play. Some would say this was a mistake on TMP’s part to not include the violent scenes that depict the reality of how Ms. Celie was treated. However, the other side to this is that by taking the focus off the violence, the audience is able to focus on the character’s story more and her interactions with other characters she comes to meet.
TMP’s “The Color Purple: A New Musical” creates a new viewpoint on Celie’s story while still keeping some essentials of the original narrative. Whether or not you’ve seen the movie or read the book, I recommend seeing this play. If you haven’t heard the story before, I’m sure that after seeing this play it will make you want to pick up the book, watch the movie, or learn more about Celie’s story.
Kaijona Wade, 16, is a junior at Bellarmine Prep and last year's City of Destiny Award winner for Youth Service. She plans to attend The Washington Journalism and Media Conference in Washington, D.C. at George Mason University this summer as a National Youth Correspondent.
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