“Hey, sista, whatcha gon’ do?”
The Color Purple has become a bona fide hit after John Doyle’s revival took Broadway by storm but you might not realise the level of the pop credentials that its composers Brenda Russell (‘Piano in the Dark’, ‘Get Here’), Allee Willis (‘Boogie Wonderland’, ‘What Have I Done To Deserve This’, ‘I’ll Be There For You’) and Stephen Bray (classic Madonna hits like ‘Express Yourself’, ‘Into The Groove’ and ‘Causing A Commotion’) brought to the table.
And that Doyle revival being the first experience I had with the show when it originated at the Menier Chocolate Factory, it’s kinda hard to believe that the original Broadway run in 2006 wasn’t an equivalent critical success. The issues must have lay with Gary Griffin’s production as for me, this Original Broadway Cast recording is a superb rendering of the score and one which is at least the equal of the revival and in some places, its better.
Led by the versatile talents of LaChanze as the central Celie and supported by Elisabeth Withers-Mendes’ Shug, Felicia P Fields’ Sofia and Renée Elise Goldsberry’s Nettie, The Color Purple is a shining beacon for the African-American woman’s voice in all its vital and vibrant experience. The bursts of power that comes from tracks like ‘Hell No’, ‘Push Da Button’ and the scorching ‘I’m Here’ tell stories that resonate across the ages in all their different ways.
And musically, the score cherry-picks from those ages too. A hit of blues here especially for Shug’s numbers, solid Broadway balladry there, soulful spirituals singing over there, the lifeblood of gospel throughout, it’s an impressive musical patchwork that adds up to a striking quilt of a whole.