The cast of The Colour Purple

This bold musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel takes a Technicolor approach to some very dark issues.

Events start at the turn of the 20th century and focus on Celie, a poor young black girl abused by her father and whose only solace is her relationship with her sister Nettie – who she is soon separated from.

Celie continues to be subjugated by the men in her life, while gradually coming to know a series of women who refuse to be cowed.

Eventually life turns a corner and Celie takes control of her life, finding happiness and, at the end, reconnecting with her family.

The cast of The Colour Purple
(L-R) Monifa James (Ensemble), McCallum Connell (Ensemble), Alex Okoampa (Ensemble), Neil Patterson (Ol’ Mister), Bree Smith (Shug Avery) and Me’sha Bryan (Celie) – Photo: Manuel Harlan

The plot is a more saccharine tale than both the original novel and Steven Spielberg’s movie version, with violence mentioned but never really seen. That said, Me’Sha Bryan as Celie mainfests the shy, sheepish young girl well, with her posture gradually straightening as her confidence grows through the piece.

Ako Mitchell as her husband is vocally impressive in his solo piece, Mister’s Nightmare, but doesn’t really bring the menace his character needs.

There are nearly 30 songs across the 2 hour 10 minute running time covering many musical styles, though few are catchy enough to follow you out of the auditorium. The exceptions are Push Da Button, led by Bree Smith as sultry singer Shug Avery, which really captivates; and Brown Betty, featuring Ahmed Hamad as Harpo, whose supporting performance, along with Anelisa Lamola’s as Sofia, equals the leads.

The cast of The Colour Purple
The cast of The Color Purple – Photo: Manuel Harlan

The opening night crowd gave it a standing ovation, but for me something didn’t quite connect with this production. This is a redemptive story, but the urge to make it a feel-good show also seems to have led to the darkness being downplayed.

This makes it a more palatable watch but also, ultimately, a less powerful one.