‘The Color Purple:’ Joyful Reminder of the Power of Love

Adrianna Hicks (Celie) Leads Musical Revival to New Heights

Adrianna Hicks, N'Jameh Camara and the North American tour cast of "The Color Purple." Photo by Matthew Murphy. Courtesy Kennedy Center.
Adrianna Hicks, N'Jameh Camara and the North American tour cast of "The Color Purple." Photo by Matthew Murphy.

By D. Kevin McNeir, WI Editor

I suppose I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to my recollections associated with the Tony Award-winning musical “The Color Purple,” after hitting the Broadway scene and being mesmerized on several occasions by an unbelievably talented cadre of often rotating performers that included Jennifer Hudson, Danielle Brooks, Heather Headley and Cynthia Erivo who walked away with the 2016 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical as Celie in the 2015-2017 revival.

So, as the first downbeat sounded in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater a few nights ago here in the District, I found myself less than enthusiastic and jaded – hoping for the best but anticipating that I’d be seeing a production that, upon its conclusion, would reiterate my belief that second place is never good enough. I guess I wasn’t expecting a whole lot. But, I was willing to give it a try – albeit subjectively.

Wow! Was I wrong in my premature conclusions. In fact, this new revival, with several cast members returning in roles previously performed during the 2016 touring company, captured my attention from the word go – and left me wanting more when the final curtain fell while the sounds of the orchestra echoed in my mind.

Adrianna Hicks in the demanding role of Celie, seemed to be toying with her audience in the early part of the play. Then, she suddenly thrust her head back and belted out notes that belied her more petite frame. What’s more, her voice soared throughout the theater like a bird in flight, leaving me in tears well before the end of the first half of the show.

Meanwhile, her fellow cast members, Carla Stewart (Shug Avery), Carrie Compere (Sofia), Jay Donnell (Harpo), N’Jameh Camara (Nettie) and an actor of whom I must see a lot more, Gavin Gregory who brings new flavor and swag in his portrayal of Mister, each take on their roles with similar aplomb, adding their unique personalities and talents as they stir the pot until it’s transformed into a seven-course meal fit for royalty.

Tony Award-winner John Doyle, the director of the play, armed with an iconic, soul-raising score replete with jazz, blues, ragtime and gospel, and standing on the solid ground of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story, makes good of his plentiful arsenal of weapons.

And the result is more than I could have imagined.

You owe it to yourself, to your friends, family and especially your children to see this delightful show that takes us along the road of a broken, abused Black woman in the South who holds on fiercely to love – the strength it yields and the joy that it can provide – until, at long last, she triumphs.

“The Color Purple” continues through Aug. 26. Visit www.kennedy-center.orgfor tickets or more information.

This post originally appeared in The Washington Informer.

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