‘The Color Purple’ kicks off | DayNews Herald Community Newspaper

Plaza Theatrical Productions is one of many success stories in Long Island’s recovery from the pandemic. A longtime fan of community theater, it began specializing last year with a new division — Broadway Plaza on Long Island — all under the steady hand of Kevin Harrington, not just the plaza’s producers and director, and its founder.

Under a union contract with the Actors Equity Association, Harrington focuses on bringing professional Broadway-quality productions (accompanied by a live orchestra) to the theater at the Elmont Memorial Library at Hempstead Turnpike.

The opening season at Nassau County’s first Equity theater includes the Rogers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific this October. Now audiences can see “The Color Purple” premiere on Long Island.

This fast-paced musical – running until June 12 – is a story of hope, a testament to the healing power of love, and a celebration of life. The score contains a variety of musical genres such as jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues.

Adapted from Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel — which itself became Steven Spielberg’s 1985 Oscar-nominated film — The Color Purple, an inspiring family saga, An unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, found the power to overcome adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.

“‘Purple’ is a common story,” Harrington said. “It focuses on human emotion and empathy that transcends all races.”

The production stars Elmont’s Ellisha Marie as Sofia, the character Oprah Winfrey played in the 1985 film. As a child, Mary — whose parents immigrated from Trinidad and Tobago — just wanted to sing and perform. She remembered and sang every song for family and friends.

Mary was urged to audition for the school musical “Annie” at Elmont Memorial High School. Despite some apprehension, Mary plucked up the courage to audition. From there she knew that was where she belonged.

After high school, Mary immersed herself in the craft before attending the American Academy of Music and Drama in Manhattan. She has since performed on stage in and around New York City, but is now returning to El Monte to star in “The Color Purple.”

It was a drama that resonated with Mary, she said. She’s no stranger to it, appearing as the lady of the church during a run in White Plains.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to be chosen by the Gods of Drama to perform in this iconic and timeless musical,” said Marie. “It meant the world to me, and was once again a defining moment in my career… …and performing in my hometown, my love for theatre and art started.”

Critics saw this version of “Purple” as similar to 2015’s critically acclaimed Broadway revival, which introduced Cynthia Erivo and won a Tony for Erivo and the musical itself.

“I’m so excited to present this beautiful musical,” Harrington said. “I was surprised to learn that the show was never produced on Long Island.”

Harrington has seen the original in 2004 and Erivo’s recent revival. Harrington’s version is more in line with the latest revival “with its streamlined approach”, making it both “charming and powerful”.

“A particularly strong area was when the character Sugar Avery told Sealy she was beautiful,” Harrington said. “It was a transformative moment on the show, as a low self-esteem Celie suddenly realized she was a beautiful person and started to gain respect from others. I was blown away by the impact that simple words can have on other people’s lives.”

Mary couldn’t help but notice the cultural significance of the story, even 40 years after Walker first published her novel.

“We live in a post-pandemic world where people are trying to discover who they are, trying to heal from grief and the trauma of racial and gender divide and inequality,” she said. “‘Purple’ challenges our views on life, love, Views on family and forgiveness, and guide us on a journey of self-discovery.

“Theatre and the arts have always been a magnificent platform that can bring everyone together to help us get to the root of our problems and discover the truth about who we are.”


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