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Theatre Review (LA): The Color Purple by Marsha Norman, Brenda Russell, Alee Willis, Stephen Bray at the Celebration Theatre

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The Color Purple is a tale of redemption, love, triumph, and loss. The story involves a young Black girl named Celie who finds her unique voice in the world. The story was first told by Pulitzer–prize-winning novelist Alice Walker, then became an award–winning film by Steven Spielberg that starred Whoopee Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, and even a Tony and Grammy Nominated musical by Brenda Russell, Alee Willis, and Stephen Bray, with a book by Marsha Norman.

If the New York production was an event, the mounting of this huge musical in an intimate theatre space is a phenomenon. The Celebration Theatre in Hollywood has pulled out all the stops. Everything in this production, the casting, the direction (by Michael Mathews), the clothes, the lighting, the wigs (they actually had different wigs to suggest a passing of time and aging of the characters), the spot-on choreography by Janet Roston, and the lovely band, were near perfect.

Cesili Williams made a powerful Celie, going from passive abused wife to a full-fledged woman. La Toya London, an American Idol Finalist in Season 3 was sexy and gave a very brave performance as Shug Avery. Constance Jewell Lopez was a powerful Sofia. Terrence Spencer was sympathetic as Harpo. Michael A. Shepperd was amazing as Mister and nearly stole the show. This is the best thing I have seen him do.

There is a lot of heart and dedication in this The Color Purple. It is a perfect example of just what can be accomplished in an intimate space if you put your mind to it (and some bucks). The show is as moving as its Broadway equivalent and should have a very successful run at theCelebration until May 26th.

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