Bww review the color purple at the orpheum theatre is extraordinary mouth sores images

Alice Walker’s poignantly sad, yet ultimately empowering classic novel, The Color Purple, has found expression on the page, on film and twice now on the musical stage. The revival (book by Marsha Norman; songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray), honed to its finest points, tears at your heart as the story of Southern black girl Celie unfolds over decades of poverty, abuse and a loveless existence, only to see her rise triumphantly as she finally comes into her own. Directed by John Doyle (who was also responsible for the sepia-toned, minimalist set design), the show won the 2016 Tony for Best Revival of a Musical and is now on tour, with a wonderous stop at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre, now through May 27.

Set in turn-of-the-century rural Georgia, The Color Purple captures a time when the south was still struggling to rebuild, and former masters and slaves were seeking to write their stories in light of the changes wrought by the civil war and emancipation.

As mentioned above, director John Doyle also created the stark wooden set whose sepia tones are echoed in Ann Hould-Ward’s costume designs. Doyle wanted a set that captured Celie’s ramshackle, broken and distressed life and the platforms, along with the splintered wooden walls that reach up into the rafters, do capture that. But the walls have dozens of chairs bolted to them, creating a surrealistic backdrop that’s too much of a metaphorical leap to make sense in a story so grounded in reality. This opinion is in the minority but the power of stagecraft to create context, location, era and ethos is lost in this production. Thematically, chairs are also used as props and staging. To be sure, the audience can imagine chairs as hoes and pitchforks, a dank jail cell or a honky-tonk – but why should they? Fortunately, the story is so well-loved and the acting so powerful that you can almost forget about the bolted chairs rising high up on the walls.

Adrianna Hicks’ Celie is a study in vulnerability edged with determination as she is surprised and ultimately challenged by the examples of the other women in her world. Her younger sister Nettie (a wonderful N’Jameh Camara) leaves to get her education and eventually travels to Africa with a husband and wife missionary team and their two adopted children. Celie’s step-son Harpo ( J. Daughtry) is in love with a powerful, take-no-prisoners, woman named Sofia ( Carrie Compere sings and acts the hell out of this role) and last, but definitely not least, her husband Mister (played with suitable menace by Gavin Gregory) is in love with the beautiful and sexually explosive blues singer Shug Avery (the dazzling Carla R. Stewart).

Celie first meets Shug when Mister brings her home with him. She’s sick and Celie has no choice but to take care of her. Slowly the two women bond. As her stay lengthens, Shug learns that Celie exists in a washed out, loveless and abusive world and she sets out to change that, awakening Celie with a kiss. The audience is left to guess as to the extent of the relationship, but Shug’s love and compassion is a turning point for the quiet, cowed woman that everyone considers ugly. Shug alone sees her beauty and sings, I says the things that’s on my mind, too dumb to shy away. But you hush my mouth and still me with a song I’ve never heard. I guess that means that you are just too beautiful for words. Their Act I closing duet, What About Love? is achingly beautiful and fraught with hope for a different future.

The Color Purple lays bare the very worst and joyous best that can be found in the human heart, bringing to the stage the poignant and powerful story of one woman’s profound journey toward self-love, joy and beauty. It is lovingly rendered and inspiring.