I remember watching the very first preview of The Color Purple at the Menier Chocolate Factory. I remember being excited to see the first public performance of what promised to be a great production. And I remember leaving the theatre slightly underwhelmed. I did not dislike the show back then and I was impressed by Cynthia Erivo’s portrayal of Celie. But I wasn’t amazed by the production either. I figured it just was not my kind of musical and decided I had seen it once now and that would be enough.
When the production transferred to Broadway I had no intention of watching it. And I kept it at that until that day they announced Jennifer Hudson’s replacement as Shug Avery: Heather Headley. There are a few performers who will make me watch literally anything. Heather is one of them.
And so I found myself in the orchestra (= stalls, for those of you not familiar with Broadway theatre) to see a show I was sure I would find ok but not great. Then the show started and my theatrical heart exploded.
There was Cynthia Erivo literally laying her soul out for everyone to see. Her Celie is vulnerable but strong, she is fearless and determined – it is impossible to not love her.
Danielle Brooks as Sofia made me laugh and cry – a powerful force on stage.
And then there was Heather Headley, my reason to revisit the show and the one person I had the highest expectations for. If you are waiting for me to say I was underwhelmed you will be disappointed. Heather Headley’s Shug Avery is sublime. With a voice smooth as velvet Heather commands the stage. She’s feisty and funny and strong and sexy – she just IS Shug Avery.
It’s impossible to find a weak link in the cast. From Isaiah Johnson’s Mister to Kyle Scatliffe’s Harpo, Joaquina Kalukango’s Nettie and everyone in the Ensemble this is pure class on stage.
I went into this show expecting to love Heather Headley’s performance. I walked out of the theatre having my faith in musical theatre restored. As long as productions like this exist musical theatre is alive. The Color Purple made my heart sing and I am grateful Heather Headley joined this production – not just because she was sensational but also because without her I would never have made the journey to watch this show. And my soul needed a show like The Color Purple – in fact I think every soul can do with a show like this now and then.
The Color Purple is on at the Jacobs Theatre on Broadway. For more info and to book tickets please visit: http://www.colorpurple.com