BWW Review: THE COLOR PURPLE at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

by Jeremy Bustin Apr. 14, 2019

Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning The Color Purple is one of the greatest stories of the last 50 years, and its musical adaptation is one of the most magical Broadway experiences of the last 20 years. Riverside Center for the Performing Arts has captured much of that charm in its moving production of The Color Purple, running through May 5 in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Under the skilled direction of Amy Jones, the talented cast brings Walker's memorable characters to life. While Garret Jones' music direction is tight, the energetic and jazzy band sometimes overpowers the otherwise pure vocal performances. Frank Foster's beautiful, stripped-down set is a near replica of the recent Broadway revival. Michael Jarrett's supreme lighting is complemented by Patrick Lord's inspired projections. Kyna Chilcot's costumes add authenticity. 

Wendell Jordan is wonderful as the villainous and abusive Mister. Not only does he nail the darker bits of the character, but he plays just as well to the more redeeming qualities of Mister. Jordan has a fantastic voice to boot. As Sofia, Kadejah One has fantastic comic timing and great moments of physical comedy. Her "Hell No!" is an audience favorite. A trio of singing church ladies, played by Rhonda Oliver, Brittny Smith and Taylor J. Washington, filches laughter with each of their gossip-laden appearances. 

Giving a layered performance, Nia Savoy is perfectly cast as the sultry and surprisingly endearing nightclub singer Shug Avery. Her rousing "Push Da Button" is a highlight. Kanysha Williams plays well to the youthful and lively aspects of Celie. Her eleven o'clock showstopper, "I'm Here," is more power than emotion, but it is just as effective in this production. Savoy and Williams have a powerhouse moment during the act one closer "What About Love."

The Color Purple is an important story and a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. This rewarding production runs through May 5 at The Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.