I had the pleasure of attending an early screening in my hometown of Southport, NC at Surf Cinema. Having had the privilege of appearing in the stage version of this musical twice as Sofia, I jumped at the opportunity to see the stage and screen mashup of this beloved classic.
When I entered the lobby, I was greeted by a sea of various shades of purple. It was beautiful. What was even more beautiful were the multiple generations of families present. There were mother and daughter duos wearing purple hats that matched their personal style. Sons and mothers playfully bickering over which snacks to purchase. Classmates of varying decades. We were directed by the event planner to the two reserved viewing rooms. With popcorn on my left and a blue raspberry Icee on my right, I hunkered down with excited anticipation. The moment we’d all been waiting for had finally arrived.
There will be no true spoilers. I don't want to ruin this experience for anyone. I will, however, share some things that I found delightful about the film. Yes, delightful.
Remember, if you are not interested in movies where the characters burst into elaborate song and dance numbers, this version of The Color Purple is probably not for you. Having said that, let's get into it.
From the beginning, this film proves that we are outside because that is where the musical and dance numbers take place. The two sisters, Celie and Nettie, are first seen sitting in a large tree, playing like two carefree little girls. Right away, we see that Blitz Bazawule, the director of this version, has found the joy inside this tragedy.
“I watched several musicals getting ready to make this film, and the best ones were the ones that had a source for their music. The best power of musicals is when the music kicks in when the words are not enough,” Bazawule said in an interview with BroadwayWorld.com
The principal characters, Miss Celie (Fantasia Barrino-Taylor), Sofia (Danielle Brooks), and Shug Avery (Taraji P. Henson), were perfectly cast. In case you were worried, don't. Taraji can saaaannng!
Danielle Brooks brought a youthful exuberance to Sofia that is more nuanced than the 1985 interpretation. Brooks is not new to this role; she played Sofia in the 2015 Broadway Revival. Brooks’ mentor was the one and only original Sofia and one of the executive producers of this film, Oprah Winfrey. Brooks’ Golden Globe nomination was well deserved. And speaking of Golden Globe Nominations, the 2004 American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino-Taylor did not disappoint vocally, nor in the characterization of the beloved and down-trodden Miss Celie. There was a strength present even in Celie's brokenness. The sisterhood she developed with the other women in her world sustained her. The sisterhood is what sustained many of us in the worst of times. Maybe that is why The Color Purple is “The Musical About Love.”
The Color Purple opened as a wide release on Christmas Day 2023. It is well worth the price of admission.
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