A Broadway Performance—The Color Purple—
The remarkable world that exists in the pages of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Color Purple, is far too heart-strong to express, but the Broadway interpretation of this story written by Marsha Norman is one that you will never forget. With powerful performances that reach you within the first two minutes the musical begins, you’re hooked. Under the direction and exhilarating choreography of Jeffrey Polk, witnessing the genius and power behind this performance will leave a mark on your soul so genuinely profound, you’ll wonder how you waited so long to see it.
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Having the privilege to attend The Color Purple now playing at the Greenway Court Theatre is precisely that: a privilege. With an ensemble cast that captivates you including Gabrielle Jackson (Celie), Aaron Braxton (Mister), April Nixon (Shug), Elizabeth Adabale (Nettie) and Dominique Kent (Sofia) the story of love, abuse, racism, kindness, music, faith, strength, and finding your voice comes to life from the onset of the opening scene. The stage fills with the entire cast of 15 breaking out into gospel song and just as we feel the spirit move us, the story abruptly alters as 15 year-old Celie gives birth to a child resulting from the abuse of her father. It becomes even more tragic when her child is taken away and Celie is married off to the significantly older Mister. Celie marries Mister in an effort to save her sister Nettie from risking a promising future. The separation of the two sisters is devastating as are the conditions of Celie’s marriage. Forced to sleep with her husband, Celie submits to rape and lovelessness.
The stage fills with shades of purple and we are transported. Years pass, Celie having heard nothing from her sister Nettie fears she is dead. Simultaneously Harpo, Mister’s son, announces his marriage to the powerhouse Sofie. Kent’s portrayal of Sofia is one of strength, humor, dignity, and sheer ferocity. It’s Sofia who begins to show Celie that women are not meant to be anyone’s slave and Celie dares to stand her ground. When she does, she is met with Mister’s fist and fury, and even though Celie’s life is fraught with challenge after challenge, her spirit refuses to break. Jackson takes on the role of Celie with such conviction giving us a reason to smile, cry, hope, and believe that maybe her life will turn around and she will somehow see her sister Nettie again.
By the mid-point we learn of Shug, Mister’s one true love (albeit lost love) whose contagious spirit, undeniable sex appeal, and unfortunate drinking problems cost her a thriving career as a singer. In town for a brief spell, Harpo opens up his own night club after leaving Sofia in a fit of defiance, and Shug is set to perform. Celie sees an entirely new side of Mister as he cleans himself up and attempts his best behavior in anticipation of Shug’s arrival. Through a series of emotional scenes comprised of sadness, frustration, social injustice, including a riveting song and dance by Shug that will have you clapping your hands, swaying your hips, and tapping into your inner vixen, the audience finds themselves in the throes of an unforeseen love story.
Through love given, love lost, tragedy, societal restraint and ignorance, this story will bring you to tears, make you rejoice, and encourage you to pause, be true to who you are, and want to be instrumental in implementing change.
True to the original story, this adaptation of The Color Purple reaches deep into your soul and begs you to recognize how perception, time, and vulnerability can transform you. Gabrielle Jackson will command your attention the moment you see her beaming smile and unfaltering embodiment of Celie, April Nixon will stir your soul, your musicality, and wake you up in such a way you can’t see anyone but Shug; Aaron Braxton incites trouble and a bit of hate and then finds redemption with his ability to convey the many sides of Mister; Elizabeth Adabale is sweetly innocent and her joy and goodness is infectious as Nettie; and Dominique Kent grips you, makes you laugh, empowers you, and taps into the fierce spirit of a woman in such a way you wonder where Sofia begins and Dominique ends. An honorable mention is the truly talented Justyn Malik who performed perfectly from start to finish, including maintaining his poise and grace when an unsuspecting bout of hiccups came over him in the final song. Malik is a true professional. The band led by the immensely poignant Musical Director Patrick Gandy was not just on point, they were the heartbeat behind this remarkable cast of actors, singers, and dancers.
You will find yourself in tears, on your feet dancing, anticipating Angelenos have one week left to purchase tickets to this Broadway show that has been extended through December 30th as four additional performances have just been added.
Gabrielle Jackson as Celie
April Nixon as Shug
Aaron Braxton as Mister
Jeremy Whatley as Harpo
Dominique Kent as Sofia
Elizabeth Adabale as Nettie
Rachel Sarah Mount as Squeak
Carol Dennis as Soloist/Church Lady
Lynette DuPree as Church Lady
Jacquelin Schofield as Church Lady
Mariah Strickland as Church Lady
Earnest Carter as Ensemble
Otis Easter as Ensemble
Justyn Malik as Ensemble
Charles McCoy as Ensemble
THE COLOR PURPLE
DIRECTED AND CHOREOGRAPHED BY JEFFREY POLK
Book by Marsha Norman
Music and Lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray
The film The Color Purple captivated us, opened eyes, taught us about love, kindness, racism, independence, fighting back, and finding your voice. Now we get to relive that experience on stage thanks to the production by Jeffrey Polk. Greenway Arts Alliance brings us a Broadway-worthy performance and lucky for Angelenos, they just added a handful of additional performances.
The Color Purple is a musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel (and the popular 1985 Steven Spielberg film). This inspiring family saga tells the unforgettable story of Celie—a downtrodden young woman whose personal awakening over the course of 40 years forms the arc of this epic story. Celie is a woman you find inspiration and hope in. Through love, she finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.
With a joyous score featuring jazz, ragtime, gospel, African music and blues, The Color Purple is a story of hope, a testament to the healing power of love and a celebration of life. With a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, The Color Purplepremiered at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia and opened on Broadway on November 1, 2005. It was nominated for eleven 2006 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The London off-West End production opened on Broadway in 2015, winning the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical.
THE DIRECTOR | CHOREOGRAPHER
BRINGING PASSION TO THE STAGE
Director and choreographer Jeffrey Polk is a native Californian and is very honored and blessed to direct Greenway Court Theatre’s The Color Purple. His credits include: associate director for Blues in the Night at the Wallis Annenberg (Dir. Sheldon Epps); choreographer for Kiss Me, Katestarring Wayne Brady at Pasadena Playhouse (Dir. Sheldon Epps); choreographer for Dreamgirlsat Theatre Under the Stars in Houston (Dir. Sheldon Epps). He is a Guest Director with The Young Americans Music Outreach World Tours. Jeffrey directed and choreographed Smokey Joe’s Cafeat Pasadena Playhouse, for which he received an NAACP Theatre Award for “Best Director of a Musical.” He has written/ directed shows for Hillcrest Country Club along with producers Berry Gordy, Hal David and Walter Grauman. Jeffrey also performed on Broadway, National Broadway Tours and around the world.