Theatre is a powerful thing. It has the ability to make us laugh, cry and feel the deepest emotions while telling a story that holds such great importance.
It’s a rarity to come across a show that manages to pull all of the above of with success, that was until The Color Purple graced the stage of Birmingham Hippodrome.
Based on the novel penned by Alice Walker, The Color Purple has touched the lives of millions of people. A powerful story of love, loss, heartbreak and standing up for what you believe in in order to find true happiness, it’s found success both on stage in Broadway, as well as on-screen following Stephen Spielberg’s award-winning adaptation starring Whoopi Goldberg.
It’s a beautiful show to watch, but there’s no denying that it’s equally challenging. The storyline is raw and packed with emotion, as it follows the life of Celie, an African-American who is raped by her father who later marries who off to the equally abusive Albert, who separates her from everything she holds dear, including her beloved sister, Nettie.
The Color Purple is the start of a wonderful relationship between Birmingham Hippodrome and the Curve, Leicester, who have joined together on this phenomenal co-production that is well on its way to championing some of the biggest musicals on the scene. It already proved to be a huge hit at the Curve, and its opening night at the Hippodrome was no different. As far as we could see, it was difficult to spot an empty seat in the house.
With that being said, this meant that reactions from the audience only helped to pile on the atmosphere to an incredible performance. Gasps, laughs and thunderous applause erupted on multiple occasions, which should come as no surprise given the significance of the storyline. By the end of the show, I found myself tearing up at the sheer emotion that came from not just the audience, but the cast as well.
There’s no comparing The Color Purple to another show, this production is in a league of its own and it’s come out all guns blazing. The soundtrack pulls everything from jazz, blues and gospel – the opening number was a particular highlight – while the slick choreography is enough to make you want to rise from your seat and join in for a dance.
It’s hard to put into words how outstanding that cast of this production were. T’Shan Williams gave a powerful performance as leading lady, Celie. Fresh after a stint in Heather’s in the West End alongside Carrie Hope Flecther, Williams’ unstoppable vocals were utterly flawless throughout. The chemistry she had not just alongside Danielle Fiamanya, who plays Celie’s beloved sister Nettie, but together with the remaining cast is a credit to her sheer talent.
A special mention must go towards Karen Mavundukure, who was not only hilarious as Sophia. but grabbed your attention from the moment she stepped on stage with her embracing her character’s ‘no-nonsense’ approach to women being taken advantage of by their husbands. The same can be said for Joanna Francis, who took on the role of Shug Avery.
During my time reviewing productions, I’ve had the pleasure of watching some of the greatest shows of all time, and The Color Purple has just joined that list. Powerful, unforgettable and almost unbeatable, the Hippodrome and the Curve can walk around with their heads held high. Their first co-production has knocked it well and truly out of the park, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds not just for their new venture, but for The Color Purple’s new journey as well.