This isn’t a sponsored post.
BrumHour was invited to see The Color Purple by Birmingham Hippodrome.
By Becky Kroon twitter.com/BeckyKroon
This production contains adult themes.
Review: The Color Purple returns to Birmingham Hippodrome
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐A joyful reimagining
Directed by Tinuke Craig with Lakesha Arie-Angelo as revival director
Yesterday evening, I attended the press evening for Leicester Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome’s revived production of The Color Purple for BrumHour. The classic novel by Alice Walker has been brought to life on the big stage as a musical. Directed by Tinuke Craig, The Color Purple is the black, feminist musical that is a must-see. As emotional as it is heart-warming, the production explores love in all its transcending forms.
In an epic script spanning four decades, the story begins with main character Celie (performed by Me’sha Bryan) losing fundamental elements to her life. Her father takes away her children born out of wedlock, and ultimately, she sacrificially separates from her sister and finds herself in a marriage far from perfect. Celie’s innocence and vulnerability is brilliantly presented in the script as she details the sexual violence she endures in her marriage and makes for a fairly dark first act. However, before these dark themes become too intense, the tone is quickly shifted by the ensemble trio. They successfully break away from the darkness, driving Celie’s narrative forward through quirky and characteristic song and uplifting harmony.
When glamorous singer Shug Avery (played by Bree Smith) comes to stay at Celie’s southern home, Celie is shown what is means to be loved and to feel romantic love. The intimacy between Celie and Shug is directed brilliantly, where Bryan demonstrates her new feelings of desire while still capturing Celie’s innocence and vulnerability through her tender and respectful relationship with Shug.
The presence of strong female characters is a constant in the show and a key component to Celie’s growth as a character. Alongside Shug’s teachings on love, Celie also learns how to stand up for herself through the free-spirited Sofia (played by Anelisa Lamola). Sofia’s song, Hell No, was a particular highlight of the first act, with Lamola’s strong gospel vocals enhancing her female empowerment and her right to take up the space she deserves in the face of resistance shown by her male counterparts.
Vocally, The Color Purple is the best you can get on stage. From incredible gospel harmonies to hair-raising ballads, the talent displayed from the cast is phenomenal. Bryan’s vocal performance spectacularly displayed the journey of Celie, where her voice adapts from timid and whispery in Celie’s younger years to strong and confident in act 2. When Celie eventually builds the courage to leave her husband, Bryan roars the line, ‘I may be black, I may be poor, I may be ugly, but I’m here’. This marked the moment of Celie’s transition to independence and encapsulated the overarching feminist theme.
Another vocal shoutout has to go to Ako Mitchell (Mister). Characterising Celie’s violent, brutal husband, Mister’s final song sheds light on what it means to be a black man in Southern America through a spine-chilling ballad. Drawing similarities to Jessie Buckley’s Olivier-winning performance as Sally Bowles in Cabaret, Mitchell’s vocals and physically powerfully presents his character losing grip on the power that he has been fighting hard to retain and left a lasting impression.
Emotional, heart-warming and uplifting, the revived musical has been welcomed back with open arms and is a joyful reimagined of the classic story. The Color Purple is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 17th September 2022. Discover what is coming up at Birmingham Hippodrome here: birminghamhippodrome.com/whats-on.