Pictured: Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and the North American tour cast of THE COLOR PURPLE. Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017.
By Marie Warner
Celie, an African American woman who, after enduring a lifetime of injustice at the hands of her father and her husband, finds love and a place to belong in THE COLOR PURPLE, the 2005 musical currently visiting the Kauffman Center on a national tour.
The performances in THE COLOR PURPLE are extraordinary. You would be hard-pressed to find a more vocally gifted cast. Adrianna Hicks plays Celie with skill, and is by turns both vulnerable and stoic. Her realization of love with the glamorous Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart) is lovely, and Hicks’ big vocal moment hits hard in the second act with “I’m Here.” A Greek chorus of “Church Ladies” utilize air-tight harmonies to provide exposition and bring welcome levity to what is, for the most part, a heavy narrative
The entire cast is wonderful, but Carrie Compere as Sofia is the highlight. She uses every inch of her striking height and is both hilarious and moving. Her voice is deep and resonant, and her performance of “Hell No!” was so rousing that I wanted to spring to my feet. Her vocal runs are absolutely remarkable. I could have listened to her all night.
The music is beautiful but struggles at points to truly move the story forward, a product of the composing team — Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell, and Allee Willis — excellent musicians and songwriters who lack the experience of creating a musical theater narrative. The show’s message of love and self-actualization in the face of unspeakable abuse is timeless and inspiring. I just found myself wanting a little more. So much happens that, despite the admirable work of the cast, many emotional moments don’t have enough runway to land.
THE COLOR PURPLE runs through January 21st. For more information visit BroadwayInKC.com.