'The Color Purple' at Signature Theatre - Stupendous
The Color Purple from an award-winning book, movie & Broadway musical is now at Signature Theatre. The talented Nova Y. Payton is "Celie" in this production.
We all know “The Color Purple,” an award winner in every category. Whether from Alice Walker’s book, Steven Spielberg’s movie, or the Broadway musical, those versions of the literary masterpiece have put us through a whirlwind of emotions. Currently, at Signature Theatre in Shirlington, Va., this outing of the musical takes us on a 40-year journey with a teenage Celie. She is torn from her beloved sister and forced into an abusive marriage. Celie encounters repression, despair, and heartbreak. We feel rawness but also hope. There’s sadness, then joy. Nova Y. Payton, as Celie and every company member, are exceptional! Audiences can expect their emotions to get a workout. The production is a Signature Theatre until October 9.
Director Timothy Douglas worked meticulously inside Signature’s intimate setting with skilled actors, creating a blended family we learned to love. Each actor managed their roles with care, allowing the audience to see abused characters transform into wholeness.
Payton continues proving she is one of our top musical theater actresses in the metro DC area. She goes through a metamorphosis as Celie finds her strength. Payton’s facial expressions and how she held her body were deeply felt.
Native Washingtonian Mark Meadows is the music director. He jumped from this summer Signature Theatre Stevie Wonder cabaret show “Hotter Than July” into this dynamic musical. “The Color Purple” has an intense spiritual musical score that extends the production’s dialogue. Working on a soul-stirring score with superior voices meant no holding back.
“The harmonies, the arrangements are all there. What is hard about the score is that in gospel music, there is so much feeling and pausing that once I got in the rehearsal room, I had to find the pace of the show,” Meadows said. “I used the score as our Bible, but then I let it breathe. My style of music directing is always to do what is comfortable for the cast.”
Danielle Summons portrayed Shug Avery. She joined the cast immediately upon completing “Sister Act” in Rochester, N.Y. The Shug Avery character strongly connects to every other character in “The Color Purple,” which was not seen in the movie. Coming into the role, Summons understood that everyone knew these characters.
“Sliding into Shug Avery and the complexity she has in her relationship with Celie and Mister has been like therapy and emotionally challenging,” said Summons while rehearsing this musical.
Raised in Bowie, Md., during her elementary-age years, Summons continued, “I think this show is going to be very healing for a lot of people, including us on stage. This cast is incredible, arguably one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with. They are generous and selfless on stage.”
A stage and film actress. Summons recently completed work on “Rustin,” a movie about civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, directed by George C. Wolfe.
As the director, Douglas harnessed a wealth of talent and presented to us a gift wrapped in love.
“This world is not easy. It’s so personal, especially coming off the past two and a half years,” said Douglas. “The care this amazing ensemble has with and for each other inspires me daily to keep going. We finally have to stop at some point, put it in front of an audience, and hope we have something to say.”
The production of “The Color Purple” says a whole lot. Audiences will not be disappointed. Get a taste of the musical on YouTube: https://youtu.be/q4iqucHbIFY For ticket information, visit the Signature Theatre website at www.SigTheatre.org.
Twitter & Instagram: @SigTheatre
Brenda C. Siler
Twitter & Instagram: @bcscomm