It's the only non-gospel, non-Tyler Perry play that black folks flock to en masse -- The Color Purple.
I attended opening night of the Orlando run last week; it was my second time seeing the show. The first time was on Broadway in December 2007 during one of Fantasia's last performances as Celie. My aunt and I stuffed ourselves into pint-sized balcony seats with 4 millimeters of leg room and nowhere to place our coats and purses. Needless to say, I was able to focus better on the musical from orchestra seats in Orlando than cramped attic seats on Broadway.
[Delect Inject: Lesson for life--Sometimes it's worth it to just pony up the extra money to truly enjoy an experience.]
On this tour, Kenita R. Miller does an awesome job as Celie, the unfortunate and often-called-ugly main character. Fantasia's Broadway version of young Celie had the advantage of Fantasia's childlike voice. However this aspect also weakened her performance when she wasn't enunciating. Soft words with no distinction sound like baby murmur (at least from the sky seats).
My favorite character in the show is the fiery nightclub singer Suge Avery, played by Angela Robinson. Robinson brings so much panache to the role that I'm inspired to name my alter ego Suge Avery (move over Sasha Fierce!). Let me clarify, I was taken by Ms. Avery, but not the way Celie is in the story. Audience members unfamiliar with the book are often surprised by the turn Celie and Suge's relationship takes during Act II. Let's just say a rather bizarre moment occurs when Celie and Mister reminisce about how Suge left both of them.
Favorite character honorable mention goes to Sofia, played by Felicia P. Fields. Sofia is big in size and in personality. After “You told Harpo to beat me,” Sofia and her sisters perform one of the funniest numbers in the show, simply entitled, "Hell No!”
Although two of Suge's memorable songs from the movie (the one that goes, "Sistah, you been on my miiiind..." and "God is Trying to Tell You Something") are not featured in the play, there are plenty more songs to get your foot tappin'. Nineteen to be exact, including a reprise. And while I'm driving down this street...sigh. Musicals are a gift and a curse. You get a concert and a story all in one. But in the first act of The Color Purple, the numbers ran back to back to back. By the time any significant amount of dialogue was introduced, I was all sung out. Also, so much of the story is expressed through song that it's easy to miss some of the details. Eh, such is the nature of the beast, I suppose.
Nonetheless, The Color Purple is a phenomenal show with an impressive, ever-changing set, imaginative choreography, intriguing story, and soul. The show tours through February 2010, with Fantasia rejoining the cast during its last stop, in Los Angeles.