Madison locals and college students especially, are lucky to have a venue like the Overture nearby. Its not anywhere you have the opportunity to see the Broadway classic, “The Color Purple,” in your own backyard.
At its core, “The Color Purple” is a story about women helping women. While also a narrative on the life of Black women in the south at the start of the 20th century, the story is primarily driven by the lives of its leading ladies.
The story follows Celie — played by leading actress Mariah Lyttle — and her life in 1909 Georgia. Her story is a tragic one throughout the first act. At only fourteen, she has two children who her father gave away so she would not be distracted from her chores. Her father then marries her off to an abusive husband referred to as “Mister,” played by Andrew Malone.
Celie’s one saving grace in the first few scenes is her younger sister, Nettie. Played by Nashka Desrosiers, Nettie is sweet and ambitious.
The sisters’ chemistry is immediately apparent as Celie vows to protect Nettie, and Nettie encourages Celie to ask more questions about the world.
Despite having relatively little stage time, Desrosiers has a gravitating presence and stunning voice that steals attention every time she appears.
The theme of strong women teaching and protecting Celie continues with the introduction of Chédra Arielle as Sofia. In the song “Hell No!” she insists Celie needs to get away from Mister unless he starts treating her right.
In the second act, Sofia’s actions stand behind her words as she helps Celie move out by protecting her from Mister’s anger.
While Nettie teaches Celie to think for herself and Sofia teaches her strength and independence, one last leading lady appears midway through Act I to teach her hope.
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Shug Avery, played by Sandie Lee, is a fabulous blues singer from Memphis. Not only is she Celie’s true love interest, she is Celie’s savior from Mister, and teaches her there is more to life than what Celie thinks. She does not have to be content with a husband who mistreats her.
Beyond the remarkable, heart-rending and powerful storytelling, the show is driven by more technical elements as well.
The orchestra is minimal with only eight musicians including the conductor as the pianist. Conductor Jonathan Gorst supports the cast well, leading the orchestra by following the powerful vocals for gospel and blues numbers alike.
People aside, even the set lends itself to the production value. The set is incredibly minimal, consisting almost entirely of a single wall covered in wooden chairs which are used in place of any other furniture, as well as several props.
By taking the focus off of the set, the audience focuses instead on characters and costumes. The show is driven by pure, unadulterated emotion that had the audience on its feet at the first bow.
Between the incredible vocals, stellar storytelling, talented musicians and top-notch actors, “The Color Purple” is a must-see show this Broadway series at the Overture.
See the show now through Sunday, Feb. 23, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Student rush tickets go on sale an hour before the show for $30 cash with a valid student ID.