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Theatre / The Color Purple (Musical)

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"Like the color purple
Where do it come from?"

The Color Purple is a stage musical adaptation of the novel of the same name, with some elements from the 1985 film adaptation. The music was composed by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, while Marsha Norman did the book.

Like the novel, the film centers around Celie, an abused young woman in early 20th century rural Georgia. Raped by her father, forced into marriage to a man named Mister, and separated from her beloved sister Nettie, Celie withdraws. But in the coming years, the companionship of the strong-willed Shug Avery, Mister's old flame, and Sofia, Mister's brief daughter-in-law, help Celie find herself.

The musical made its debut in Atlanta in 2004 following workshops. It then debuted on Broadway in 2005 and ran until 2008; the original Broadway cast included LaChanze, Elizabeth Withers, Brandon Victor Dixon, and Renée Elise Goldsberry. A revival starring Cynthia Erivo as Celie, Jennifer Hudson as Shug, and Danielle Brooks as Sofia ran from 2015-2017. A film adaptation of the musical, starring Fantasia Barrino, Danielle Brooks (reprising her role from the revival), Taraji P. Henson, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, HER, Halle Bailey, Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor, and Phylicia Pearl Mpasi was announced set for a December 2023 release.

The musical contains examples of:

  • Beautiful All Along: The song "Too Beautiful For Words" is Shug assuring Celie that she is lovely, despite the latter's reservations.
    You hide your head under your wings
    Just like a little bird
    Oh, don't you know you're beautiful
    Too beautiful for words
  • Bookends: The musical begins and ends with the little clapping game that Celie and Nettie play.
  • Gossipy Hens: Doris, Darlene, and Jarene, a trio of chatty church ladies who double as a Greek Chorus.
  • Gospel Revival Number: Severa songs, especially the opening, "In Mysterious Ways", are sung in a gospel style, befitting the rural South setting
  • In Mysterious Ways: The title of the opening number, where the congregation praises God's ability to bring good out of evil. There's some Alternative Song Interpretation going on... the congregation gossips about some of the abuse going on in Celie and Nettie's house, but do little to help.
  • Lighter and Softer: The musical takes on a more comedic and empowering tone than the film and novel without being dismissive of its dark subject matter. Several characters are also kinder and more encouraging to Celie.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: "Hell No", in which Sofia puts her foot down about Harpo and Mister's violence and leaves, shocking Celie (who was taught to be meek and submissive in the face of abuse).