The cast will perform the thrilling “The Color Purple” at Akron’s Weathervane Theater through March 13.
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, this uplifting musical is Weathervane’s 800th production since it founded the theater in 1935. It’s a cause for celebration, beautiful singing and inspiring storytelling.
Those who have seen the musical in a large theater and may feel a little out of the way of the action can look forward to a visceral experience of the production in an intimate 240-seat weathervane.
Part of that is because the sound is top-notch for this show, making a strong music production even more exhilarating. Thanks to Music Director Edward Ridley Jr. and his six-piece band, who brought a fusion of jazz, gospel, African and blues to life.
Directed by Richard Morris Jr., the cast of 21 consists of 10 members and three special women who brilliantly create the world of this show taking place in the American South, from Glorious church scenes to rowdy Juke unite to a scene in Africa. Of particular note are the gossip church ladies Jarene, Doris and Darlene, played by Bonita Jenkins, Joyce Linzy and Reva Golden, who comment on the story like a Greek chorus, providing plenty of humor and attitude.
In this story, abused young Sealy suffers for years at the hands of her dad (James Boyd) and the man she was forced to marry (Nagy Rolls). In this tale of hope and the power of love, she maintains her love for her missing sister Nettie (Nila Hodo) for 40 years.
Kent State University sophomore Moriah Cary put on a rousing performance as Celie, perfectly expressing her turbulence and hope through her performance and outstanding singing. In this tale of overcoming adversity, Cary excels in “Here I Am” as Celie is fully awake.
Brooke Jai is also full of energy as the sexy blues and jazz singer Shug Avery, through her portrayal it is clear that Shug may be fickle in love, but wise enough when it comes to faith and seeing beauty in others. Christina Johnson portrays another strong woman as Sofia who won’t put up with any crap, while Dyrell Barnett plays her husband Harpo , which is the only male character that is completely likable.
Morris’ stage was beautiful, as were designer Jason Smith’s colorful period costumes and hats. Morris’s set features wooden slats that evoke the feel of a roughly hewn cottage, as well as a wooden bridge and staircase at center stage.
This is a coming-of-age story that includes cruelty, abusive situations, and sexual content. Men are the perpetrators, but “Purple” has a strong message of redemption and, ultimately, love.
Art and restaurant writer Kerry Clawson can be reached at 330-996-3527 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
when: Runs through March 13, 7:30pm Thursday-Saturday, Sunday 2:30pm
Where: Weathervane Theater, 1301 Weathervane Lane, Akron
On stage: Starring Moriah Cary, Nyla Hodoh, James Boyd, Najee Rawls, Dyrell Barnett, Christina Johnson, Brooke Jai
Offstage: Martha Norman, book; based on novel by Alice Walker; Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, music and lyrics; Richard Morris Jr., director/scenography/technical director; Kevin Marr II, editor Dance; Ayron Lord, Stage Manager; Edward Ridley Jr., Music Director; Jasen Smith, Costume Designer; Jack-Anthony Ina, Lighting Designer; Christopher Pepe, Sound Designer; Pamela Parks Costa, Property Designer; Geraldine Harris, Assistant Director; Aiden Brueck and Melanie Scott, Assistant Stage Manager; Kathy Kohl, Assistant Technical Director; John Coyne, Room Sound Technician
information: 330-836-2626 or weathervaneplayhouse.com