Phoenix Theatre Company Presents Purple in Masterpiece of The Beyond Theater

learn Purple, in all adaptations from books to film to stage, one must connect not only with African American history, but also with the author’s divinely inspired message. When asked about her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel in a 2015 Huffington Post interview, Alice Walker replied as follows:

“I want people to understand when they read Purple, is it all possible that all these terrible things can happen to us, yet life is so magical and rich and existential that we can still be very happy…the beauty of nature reminds us of the divine, I mean, we Already in heaven, really. It’s just that we didn’t notice it and we were distracted by people who wanted us to believe they were basically selling us. But if you pass purple in a field and you don’t even notice it, why are you even on this planet? I mean, you should pay attention to what’s here because it’s wonderful and amazing, its beauty and fragrance loves you, or it can love you. “

“I hope it represents the possibility of our absolute freedom. Especially our spiritual freedom. Because until spiritual freedom, it is very difficult to free any other part. We desperately need to get rid of so many shackles.”

Walker’s intentions are echoed in Sugar Avery’s conversation with Sealy, whose twenty-five-year journey of self-realization and empowerment is documented in the musical:”If you walk past purple in a field somewhere without noticing it, it annoys God. “

Inspired by the novel, Martha Norman (‘Good night, Mom, secret garden, Bridges in Madison County) wrote the book for the award-winning play, with music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Allie Wells and Brenda Russell.

Norman’s musical captures the essence of Walker’s vision and is in the current production at Phoenix Theatre Company. PurpleDirector Daryl Brooks has produced a masterpiece that transcends drama, embodying all the pain and spirit of a sustained and resilient community of the gospel and its children.

A stunning ensemble of 19 actors set against a backdrop of textured curtains and rustic platforms by Douglas Clarke and radiant lighting by Ashton Corey Scattered throughout Georgia’s rural communities, Celie’s 35-year journey begins here. Kevin White’s six-piece orchestra is excellent, complementing the orchestra’s rich and rhythmic calls and responses and providing beats to Rueben D. Echoles’ muscular choreography.

At the center of the ensemble is Andrea Fleming, whose portrayal of Celie rises to a dizzyingly brave performance. She excels in the role, measuring the evolution of her character and voice, right down to the moment of her ecstatic self-affirmation (I’m here), her powerful singing lifted the audience from their seats.

As she evolves from a teenage child to an independent seamstress, she gives birth to and hands over two children before being traded by her stepfather (AD Weaver) to a relationship with Mr. (Noah Lehi) Jess), became an independent tailor, and Fleming blossomed with a force of nature.

Review: Phoenix Theatre Company renders purple in Masterpiece of The Beyond Theatre

In a story steeped in the nature of family, Celie longs to be reunited with her sister Nettie (Jones Bernard), a bond severed by time and sea space, part of a larger diaspora story. The story became apparent as the stage turned to Africa, adorned with the brilliant colors of the dashikis of the same costume designer, Echoles.

Review: Phoenix Theatre Company renders purple in Masterpiece of The Beyond Theatre

The same goes for the rest of the Celie community – changing over time, with each person’s life interconnected and influenced by the other. Among them, the husband’s son Harper (Bleu), his indomitable wife Sophia (Shawnis Maudline Alexander) and his mistress Squeak (Jarry Hale).

If there’s a counterpart to Ms. Fleming’s natural powers, it’s Meka King’s brilliant performance as Shug Avery, the gorgeous one-time Mr. Mistress, who Intimacy with Celie is the gateway to Celie’s self-realization.

The truth is that for every performer listed in this review~actually, for every member of this wonderful company~superlatives are not enough. It is a product of extraordinary strength, dynamism and importance. No doubt a must see before it closes on May 1st.

Purple The Phoenix Theatre Company’s Hormel Theatre runs through May 1st. (running time ~ 2 hours 10 minutes plus 15 minutes intermission)

Phoenix Theatre~ 1825 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ ~ www.phoenixtheatre.com ~ 602-254-2151

Photo credited to Reg Madison Photography

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