The Color Purple
Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre
Reviewed on Wednesday 30th March 2016
Having first played London's Menier Chocolate Factory in 2013, John Doyle's stripped back, stylistic production of The Color Purple has made it to Broadway with West End star Cynthia Erivo reprising her performance. Adapted from Alice Walker, The Color Purple tells a heartbreaking story; whilst it is gut wrenching, the piece also inspires and and is spiritually uplifting.
When I saw Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray and Marsha Norman's show in London I remember writing that I'd never experienced an audience reaction like it; however, seeing The Color Purple on Broadway was a whole different ball game. From the second the lights went down and the first number began the audience went crazy - the way this show connects with people is extraordinary.
Erivo stars as Celie who is put through the most horrific emotional turmoils; after having an awful upbringing, Celie is married off to a man who beats her. On top of that she thinks her sister is dead and has no idea about the well-being of her two children. The piece follows Celie's life between 1914 and 1945, you can't help but be moved by her story as she ventures down her path to self acceptance.
The entire company of Doyle's production are heavenly. They perform with such spirit and fully commit to the piece. It was so powerful to see how affected they were by the audience response, which is quite special considering they perform the show eight times a week. Danielle Brooks is a force of nature as Sofia - she is seriously incredible. Jennifer Hudson is cooler than cucumber as Shug; it's wonderful to see her take on such a different role - she lets her legendary voice do the talking.
There's talent, and then there's Cynthia Erivo who gives the absolute performance of a lifetime. This is her role, and she's bringing audiences to their feet mid-show night after night after her astounding rendition of 'I'm Here'. Erivo is worldclass, and it's utterly joyous to see her receiving such overwhelming acclaim on Broadway. Her performance is controlled and carefully calculated; she is a phenomenal actress with a voice to die for.
Erivo is destined for big things - the world is her oyster. Whether she returns to the West End (Hamilton, anyone?), lands another Broadway role, ventures into screen work or turns her attention to her long overdue solo album, whatever Erivo does next is sure to be unmissable. Seeing The Color Purple on Broadway marked one of the most unforgettable evening's I have ever spent at the theatre.
Reviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)
The Color Purple plays at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre (242 West 45th Street).
Please visit www.colorpurple.com for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy