Adrianna Hicks’s Celie owns the musical adaptation of The Color Purple | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Adrianna Hicks’s Celie owns the musical adaptation of The Color Purple 

This Broadway in Chicago production fills the Auditorium Theatre with intimacy, authenticity, and power.

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Matthew Murphy

This Tony Award-winning touring revival, presented by Broadway in Chicago and based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, projects intimacy, authenticity and power. That's no small feat in the sizable Auditorium Theatre, and it's a testament to a commanding cast and carefully spare staging and music. Adapted for the stage by Marsha Norman, with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, the musical tells the story of a group of African-American women in the 1930s south. It's dark and it's messy, and highlights issues like domestic violence in ways that ensure the audience feels their raw pain and immediacy. Under John Doyle's direction, nothing distracts from these women's journeys. Their transformations from disenfranchised side characters to protagonists of their own stories is spellbinding.

As the main character, Celie, Adrianna Hicks evolves charismatically over the course of the two acts. Deftly using body language to convey more than words, she plays teenage Celie with a heartbreaking mix of fear and steely resolve as she questions God. As her traumas, from lost babies to an abusive marriage, multiply, her shell hardens almost completely. Enter two strong female influences: musician and nomad Shug Avery (Carla R. Stewart) and opinionated and independent Sofia (Carrie Compere). Shug and Sofia's paths were no easier, but their strength, confidence, and love, punctuated by Stewart and Compere's room-shaking vocals, teach Celie to write her own path forward. When Hicks finally straightens her shoulders and looks other people in the eye, Celie is unrecognizable in the most satisfying way.   v

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