“The Color Purple” is back at the Durham Performing Arts Center this week after a successful run in May of 2009. DPAC officials say due to the overwhelming success of the 2009 show, the Tony-nominated musical is back by popular demand, and I can see why.
The show is a musical adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker and tells the inspiring story of a woman named Celie (played by Dayna Jarae Dantzler) and her struggles in life. The novel was also made into an Oscar-nominated film directed by Steven Spielberg and starred Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg.
The show’s set is simple, but perfect, given the era of the story. But most importantly, the simple set allows the audience to not focus on what is being shown, but to focus on what is being heard.
I’ve seen a few shows at the DPAC and by far the musical talents of these singers are the best I’ve heard. The Grammy-nominated score features jazz, gospel and blues music. The voices on these singers are deep, soulful and most importantly, REAL. I’m sure these actors have had some musical training but as I sat there and heard them sing, I felt the raw emotion and I felt comforted by their instruments.
In some shows the ensemble numbers are a bit, shall I say, over-the-top. But the cast and musical directors worked together to make sure the voices blend well together and the harmonies were spot-on.
They say the opening number sets the tone for the entire show, and this opening number did just that. I kind of wanted to just stand up and start clapping along.
At times I heard the audience being moved by the music and the story. During scenes that involved Sofia (played by Pam Trotter), I noticed the audience agreeing with the character and celebrating the character’s no nonsense point of view. I heard claps from the audience and I heard a few “mmm hmm” and “that’s right”, which I really didn’t mind. It made the story that much more real to me.
My favorite number was “Hell No!” performed by Sofia. As a matter of fact, this is also a favorite of one of the show’s stars. Taprena Augustine, who plays the beautiful Shug Avery, says although she isn’t in this number, it is her favorite one.
“The song is just a song of strength and unity between the women,” Augustine said during an interview with NBC-17. “And the audience just loves it.”
Besides the music and set, I have to mention the costumes for this show. The costumes were designed by Tony-nominated Paul Tazewell. If that last name sounds familiar, it should. He is the brother-in-law of NBC-17 Today morning show anchor Sharon Tazewell.
“They made sure the costumes portrayed the pride that they want the characters to get across to the audience, especially during that time period and they did a great job,” said Augustine.
And here’s another North Carolina connection. Traci Allen, plays Nettie, is a Winston-Salem native and says performing in her home state, close to family and friends, is exciting.
“It’s so great to be close to home…just knowing friends and family are so close by, it’s amazing,” said Allen.
“The Color Purple” runs from May 25 through May 30 at the DPAC. For more info, click here.
Have you seen the show or have you bought tickets to the show? Share your experience by posting a comment below.
Click on the video player below to watch the raw interview with Traci Allen and Taprena Augustine.