Theatre Information

Virginia Repertory Theatre The Color Purple

By • Jun 21st, 2014 • Category: Reviews, Virginia
The Color Purple
Virginia Repertory Theatre: (Info) (Web)
Virginia Rep Center – November Theatre, Richmond, VA
Through August 3rd
2:55, with intermission
$30-$60 (Plus Fees, Discounts Available)
Reviewed June 20th, 2014

With our long, hot Richmond summer nights; there is no need to sit at home watching re-runs or lame TV pilots. An amazing summer of theater has become even hotter with Virginia Rep’s The Color Purple.

The powerful story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker (and turned into a 1985 film which introduced the world to Whoopi Goldberg and also starred Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover) mixes serious topics with laughter and music that works on every level. The singing, the dancing, the acting and the music are all spot on; and each performer is perfectly cast in this technically breathtaking production.

The story follows the lives of two African-American sisters from the days of sharecropping through the 1930′s. One, Celie (Felicia Curry) is shy and unattractive. The younger, Nettie, Katrinah Carol Lewis, is beautiful and self-assured. The old widowed man who they believe is their father, treats them as property, both physically and sexually. Celie, after giving birth to two children by this man who has raised her as her father (and he promptly gives them both away) is sent to live with Mister (Jerold Solomon) an equally mean, abusive and cold widower. When Nettie comes to live with Celie, after tiring of her father’s sexual advances, she fights off a sexual advance from Mister, who then sends her away as well. Throughout the remainder of the plot, Celie seeks to find her sister, her children and her own self-respect, inner strength and inner beauty.

It is difficult to single out performers in this Broadway quality production; but Curry does stand out in her emotionally deep performance. She captures all of Whoopi Goldberg’s charm – right down to the shy, toothy smile, while still making the role her own.

Desiree Roots Centeio likewise is reminiscent of a young Oprah, yet makes the character of Celie’s spirited daughter-in-law, Sophia, a masterpiece of her own as she commands her husband and the stage. Solomon transforms from odious to penitent with skill and believability. Josh Marin brings youthful energy, charm and charisma to Mister’s son Harpo.

All the performers are amazingly true to life as they develop their characters over a span of more than 30 years of their lives. Curry is especially poignant in developing Celie from that shy and confused 14-year-old to a gray-haired, strong woman.

Carolyn Minor Daughtry brings a sultry sizzle to Shug Avery, a Juke singer who both Celie and Mister are in love with.

Comedic stand outs include Ciara McMillian as Harpo’s girlfriend Squeak and Shalimar Hickman-Fields, Stephanie M. Hill and Amanda Montague as three church ladies who serve at times as the musical’s Greek Chorus/narrators.

Director Chase Kniffen keeps the show energetic and visually appealing. Leslie Owens-Harrington’s choreography and Ben Miller’s Music Direction keep the audience enthralled, with huge applause following every number and a standing ovation even before the final number ended.

Ron Keller’s visually interesting set is made up almost entirely of old wood planks which sets the time and poverty. Various forms of doors, windows and clothing hang about to give a generic feel to the entire set. Hopefully, some opening night kinks with the set will be worked out.

Lighting Designer Joe Doran sets the mood perfectly, while also highlighting individual performers and singers. Costume Designer Sue Griffin also enhances the production with lavish costumes for African tribal dancers and club partiers; and simple, basic outfits for Celie and Nettie.

As Shug says, God created the color purple to say “look what I made.” Take the time this summer to enjoy the beauty of Virginia Reps’ The Color Purple to witness the rich, beautiful theatrical art they have made.

Photo Gallery

Felicia Curry as Celie Cast photo
Felicia Curry as Celie
Cast photo
Cast photo Cast photo
Cast photo
Cast photo
Carolyn Minor-Daughtry as Shug and Felicia Curry as Celie Cast photo
Carolyn Minor-Daughtry as Shug and Felicia Curry as Celie
Cast photo
Desirée Roots Centeio as Sofia and Josh Marin as Harpo Cast photo
Desirée Roots Centeio as Sofia and Josh Marin as Harpo
Cast photo

Photos by Aaron Sutten

The Cast

  • Celie: Felicia Curry
  • Shug Avery: Carolyn Minor Daughtry
  • Mister: Jerold Solomon
  • Sofia: Desiree Roots Centeio
  • Harpo: Josh Marin
  • Nettie: Katrinah Carol Lewis
  • Squeak: Ciara McMillian
  • Jarene: Shalimar Hickman-Fields
  • Darene: Stephanie M. Hill
  • Doris: Amanda Montague
  • Preacher/Ensemble: Billy Dye
  • Pa/Grady/Ensemble: J. Ron Fleming
  • Ol’ Mister/Ensemble: Thomas Nowlin
  • Church Soloist/Ensemble: Karla J. Brown
  • Buster/Chief/Ensemble: Tybias Whitehead
  • Young Nettie/Chief’s Daughter: Tyandria Jackson
  • Young Celie/Mister’s Daughter: Ayana Williams
  • Young Harpo/Young Adam: Donathon Arnold
  • Young Olivia/Henrietta: Jada Evans
  • Ensemble: Skye Hagood, Anthony Cosby, Taylor Walls, Trent Williams, Courtney Jamison, Alana S. Thomas, Cariel Hughes, Will Anderson, Pamela Shaw, Ashlee Heyward, Jessi Johnson, Andrew Reid, Devante J. Wells, Mike Brown

The Crew

  • Director: Chase Kniffen
  • Choreography: Leslie Owens-Harrington
  • Musical Director: Ben Miller
  • Scenic Designer: Ron Keller
  • Lighting Designer: Joe Doran
  • Costume Designer: Sue Griffin
  • Stage Manager: Wendy Vandergrift

The Band

  • Conductor/Keyboard 1: Ben Miller
  • Keyboard 2: Anthony Smith
  • Drums/Percussion:Joe Lubman
  • Bass: Derrick Englert
  • Guitars: Forrest Link
  • Trumpet: Mark Ingraham
  • Reeds: Susan Davis

Disclaimer: Virginia Repertory Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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