StageArt: The Colour Purple

At this year’s Tony Awards, the Broadway revival of the Oprah Winfrey produced The Color Purple musical received the Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress. StageArt are currently presenting the Australasian premiere. Words can barely capture the magic of this production.

The Colour Purple. StageArt. Photo by Belinda Strodder
The Colour Purple. StageArt. Photo by Belinda Strodder

The emotional journey of the show reflects Celie’s inner journey. What begins as a disturbing story about incest and loss, blossoms into a story of new life and light. Celie is initially timid, shy and defeated; however, her inner power is there, an untapped source waiting to be discovered. Through the influence of several loving, strong and ambitious women, she discovers her power, happiness and worth. She discovers herself. The absolute showstopper “I’m Here” is an indescribable triumph. Celie’s life is only just beginning.

Director and designer Robbie Carmelotti has delivered a crisp, emotionally vivid vision of the material, allowing the astounding performances to shine.

The simple relies on hanging light bubls and wooden benches that re-arranged by the actors throughout the show. The muted tones of the early 20th century costumes, designed by Rhiannon Irving, add to the authentic feel.

The music is incredible, delivered with confidence and control by the entire cast and presided over by musical director Caleb Garfinkel.

Jayme-Lee Hanekom is a sublime Celie. Her angelic and youthful presence draws the audience in from the very first moment. Her vocals are incredible – she must be heard to be believed – and her face beams with authenticity. She has particularly wonderful chemistry with Anna Francesca Armenia as Celie’s sister Nettie.

Thando Sikwila is a vivacious Shug Avery and delivers flawless vocals. The Act One closer “What About Love?” is a particular highlight for Sikwila and Hanekom, thanks to their tender and nurturing energies and perfectly complementary voices. Kendrew A Heriveaux is menacing as Mister, and Vanessa Menjiva makes a bold and broad force-to-be-reckoned-with Sofia.

The finale received an instant standing ovation from the audience opening night. It gave me goosebumps.

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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