‘The Color Purple’ on Broadway with Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo has arrived. Based on Alice Walker’s classic novel of the same title, this new production is getting universally positive reviews from theater critics. Find out what they have to say and why there’s so much excitement this time around.
Alice Walker’s landmark bestselling novel, ‘The Color Purple’ won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and as years have gone by it’s become a literary classic. It’s also lived out several other incarnations, including Steven Spielberg’s 1985 movie, which divided critics and audiences alike, even as its cast collectively gave heartbreakingly powerful performance. It’s the movie, after all, that landed Oprah Winfrey a much-deserved Oscar nod in the years before she became the influential billionaire mogul she is today.
This is not the first trip to Broadway that The Color Purple has made, and in this second time around, there was much anticipation. Sure, an exciting cast, with superstar Jennifer Hudson making a long-awaited Broadway debut portraying Shug Avery, and as the central character, Celie, the newcomer and rising star Cynthia Erivo.
This time around we’re witnessing a phenomena. With the same producers, Scott Sanders and Oprah Winfrey, but with a new director, John Doyle, this musical has found its stride, its voice, or whatever metaphor one wants to use. It would be an understatement to use the hackneyed phrase and say it’s received “rave reviews.” The critics are ecstatic to say the very least. Drawing comparisons between the 2005 production, the universal agreement is, this time around is the charm. We didn’t have to wait for the third time!
Here’s a roundup of what the theater critics have to say.
“…. For the first time in its long history of dramatization, “The Color Purple” has been afforded an incarnation fully in sync with one crucial aspect of Walker’s original authorial intent — that the audience must participate in the imaginative act in order to comprehend its richness of theme and story. And, in this production, first seen at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, so they do. Willingly. Delightedly. When they are not rising to their feet to stop the show……” The Chicago Tribune
“….The new “Color Purple” never loses sight of its Celie, and Doyle keeps the show revolving around the stunning performance of Cynthia Erivo in the role. She isn’t better than LaChanze, Erivo is just different — very grounded, less impish and adorable. Her more naturalistic approach roots the show, and that’s needed because Doyle’s minimalism here is very fanciful. …..” The Wrap
“…Wow, what a difference a more-focused production makes. When the musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s searing story of abuse and deliverance, The Color Purple, premiered on Broadway in 2005, its rewards were compromised by the messy and emphatic qualities of the overblown production. Ten years later, director John Doyle and an electric cast assembled around transcendent British newcomer Cynthia Erivo as Celie have given the show a deep — and deeply satisfying — rethink. This revelatory overhaul is characterized by its grace, restraint and soaring spirituality, peeling back the clutter to expose the life-affirming material’s molten emotional core. It remakes a patchy musical as a thrilling one…..” — The Hollywood Reporter
“….Rather than rehashing the drama, Doyle has reconceived “The Color Purple” as a communal meditation on a modern American myth. The result — and it wouldn’t surprise me if the uninitiated feel this way as well — is a spiritually transcendent theatricalization of the tale that had me silently shouting “hallelujah” and “amen.” ….” — L.A. Times
“…. The ladies wear the pants in John Doyle’s ravishing revival of “The Color Purple.” Jennifer Hudson is radiant as the love machine Shug Avery. Danielle Brooks shakes the house as the earthy Sofia. And Cynthia Erivo, the tiny pint of dynamite who originated the role at the Menier Chocolate Factory in London, brings the audience roaring to its feet as Celie, the shamefully abused heroine of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker that started the whole book-to-film-to-stage phenomenon. All three performers are making their Broadway debuts, which makes it all the more thrilling…….” — Variety
“…. That earlier “Color Purple,” a box-office hit, was a big, gaudy, lumbering creature that felt oversold and overdressed. The current version is a slim, fleet-footed beauty, simply attired and beguilingly modest. Don’t be deceived, though, by its air of humility. There’s a deep wealth of power within its restraint. ..….” — The New York Times
No doubt, this time around, the production is a winner. After weeks of promotion and the long buildup and ultimately, the buzz, Alice Walker’s classic has found its new home on Broadway thanks to a new production and some immensely powerful stars. You can see Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo and the cast of ‘The Color Purple’ in performance below!
Pictures: PR Photos