The Color Purple in Concert
Reviewed on Sunday 21st May 2017 by Sebastian Singh
Photos by Scott Rylander.
Raw, powerful and filled with soul, musical theatre heaven was created tonight at Cadogan Hall! For this particular production, Danielle Tarento both produced and directed; and as always, her magical touch has helped to create a night of beauty. With a very short time frame to rehearse this, she produced a stellar line up of principals and one of the most energetic and soulful ensembles I have ever seen. The musicians on stage, led by James Taylor, were just as enthusiastic and the overwhelming sense of joy that pervaded from each person filled the entire room.
The Color Purple follows the story of Celie, a girl who is abused and raped by her father, faces many struggles through her life but comes to understand her worth in the world and becomes a confident and independent woman. The concert set up allowed for everything to be stripped back; the audience witnessed human beings on stage singing or playing music and filling the room with so many emotions. This was natural and beautiful and was an utter privilege to watch.
The ensemble was made up of performers from the British Theatre Academy and this theatre gala aimed to raise money to help young people to train there. They danced and gave their all to this concert and brought a youthful vitality to the night. The ‘Greek chorus’ of girls (Bernadette Bangura, Rochelle Jackman and Krishana Parker) brought voice, emotion and sassiness to their songs and lit up the stage many times.
The principal cast made the evening very special indeed. Rachel John as Shug Avery was outstanding- she hit every note perfectly and balanced the fun nature of her character with subtlety and sincerity that was incredible to watch. “Push Da Button” was a real crowd pleaser and the duet “What About Love?” was spine-tingling. She is hugely talented and is soon to be appearing in Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre as Angelica Schuyler: if you have tickets then you will be in for a treat!
Wendy Mae Brown as Sofia was hilarious and sincere, providing lots of laughter, as well as some very touching scenes. Cavin Cornwall as Mister was wonderfully terrifying and nailed his part- the emotion he brought to his part showed a real journey. Seyi Omooba was beautiful as Nettie; the rich tone and sweetness in her voice was effortless and he really held her own on stage tonight. Tyrone Huntley brought optimism and boyish charm to the part of Harpo and was a delight to see him perform.
In the show, Shug says “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Donned in a purple dress tonight, Marisha Wallace was that ‘field’ and had to be noticed by everyone due to her magnificent performance. The sold-out audience of this one-off concert were blessed to see her stand centre stage and make the role of Celie’s her own and nobody can take that away from her. A very challenging role to perform due to its highs and lows, Marisha navigated Celie’s journey with grace, soul and love. She achieved a well-deserved standing ovation for her performance of “I’m Here” which she clearly did not expect given her emotional reaction and a slight pause to the evening while she took in the moment.
It was great to be in an audience and know that each and every one of them was right there with the performers, willing them on. “The Colour Purple (Reprise)” that ended the show was spellbinding- seeing the audience on their feet again and staying stood for a short encore of the song. That sense of togetherness between audience and performers was like none other and tonight it produced something very special, that will not easily be forgotten.