Brilliant Color Purple, June 21-26

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The Color Purple (Ages 14 and older)
TPAC’s Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 and 8 p.m., Sun 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25 – $70

A gold mine of musical theater resides at TPAC this week with the touring production of The Color Purple. Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name about female black life in early 20th century rural Georgia, the musical gives rich, dramatic life to the story of Celie (Dayna Jarae Dantzler), the show’s protagonist, encompassing the emotional journey from tragedy to triumph.

Dantzler delivers a commanding performance from beginning to end, as does the entire cast. The three church ladies — Doris, Darlene and Jarene, played by Nesha Ward, Virlinda Stanton and Deaun Parker, respectively — weave on and off the stage throughout the show, adding dramatic flair as well as sometimes needed breaks in the drama by infusing a little humor.

Pam Trotter’s portrayal of the bold, brassy Sofia is spot on and full of soul, and Taprena Augustine fills the stage with vibrant sassiness as Shug Avery, whose relationship to Celie is key in the story arc.  Likewise, Edward C. Smith as Mister and Cameron J. Ross as Harpo play their parts in bold fashion.

The musical numbers penned by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray are outstanding and soul-stirring through and through. The songs truly advance the story, and the singing is phenomenal. It was sheer joy to experience that much talent on stage and to witness the absolute depth of emotion the actors infuse into their characters, particularly when Dantzler performs “I’m Here.”

The show is one of the best musical adaptations from a book and film I’ve ever seen. It was definitely an outstanding night at the theater. Keep in mind if you go, though, that the subject matter — including sexual abuse and domestic violence — is not appropriate for young children.

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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