Montclair State students, parents and faculty were left emotionally drained after going to see “The Color Purple” on Broadway on Wednesday, Feb. 10. The trip to New York City was led by Julie Fleming, the Assistant Director of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI). CSI is responsible for providing students with these theatrical experiences by scheduling a few different trips every semester.
“The Color Purple” is a powerful story based on the novel of the same name by Alice Walker. The story takes place in Georgia between 1909 and 1949 and centers around Celie, a poor, uneducated African-American girl. As she grows up, Celie survives abuse, rape and sexism while holding onto her dream of seeing her sister Nettie again, who was taken from her and brought to live in Africa.
The musical made its Broadway debut in 2005 and has found its way back to Broadway in this revival. Cynthia Erivo delivers an emotionally powerful performance as Celie. Erivo was able to keep remarkable control throughout all her character had to endure, but her feelings appeared raw and real.
Jennifer Hudson made her Broadway debut as Shug Avery, a blues singer who befriends Celie and helps her to become more assertive and independent. Hudson’s upbeat song, “Push Da Button,” was beautifully staged to be in a club-like atmosphere and her voice adds life to the rhythm of the song.
Danielle Brooks delivered a standout performance as Sophia, who doesn’t submit to any man —not even her husband, Harpo. She is definitely seen as the comic relief in a lot of scenes, but that in no way makes her character a joke. Brooks’ blatant delivery of her humorous lines were very well-executed and she demonstrates Sophia’s strong behavior in the song, “Hell No!”
Even still, what makes any show great is the audience’s reaction. If the other patrons are not feeling the emotion of a show, it will lack energy, even if it’s not the fault of the actors. However, the night of Feb. 10, the Bernard B. Jacobs Theater was filled to the brim with laughter, tears and joy.
The highlight of the night was in Act II, when Erivo brought down the house with Celie’s song, “I’m Here.” The song illustruates Celie’s ability to
overcome others’ opinions of herself and see her own worth and beauty. There was a point in the song where the music settled and Erivo delicately and quietly sang the words, “I’m beautiful.” In that moment, there were outbursts of encouragement from fellow audience members and the song was concluded by a standing ovation from many in the audience.
The show’s set itself was also beautifully simplistic. The wood-panelled floor matched the panelling on the wall upstage, and the wall had wooden chairs seamlessly placed into the crevices that could be taken out and moved to be used as set pieces.
The New York theater scene was in desperate need of “The Color Purple” to come back to Broadway. The story will move you with the beautiful music and lyrics as well as the performances by the actors. Even with the serious topics discussed in the show, the music still allows the musical to be an uplifting story about loving who you really are.