‘The Color Purple’: An inspiring story of love and perseverance at the Omaha Community Playhouse

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Britney Bearfield
CONTRIBUTOR

“Hard not to love Shug, I say. She know how to love somebody back,” – Celie (TammyRa’ Jackson). Photo courtesy of Colin Conces.

Lines form with an enthusiastic audience at The Omaha Community Playhouse’s production of “The Color Purple,” directed by Kathy Tyree. The production is passionate, powerful and well-casted.

“The Color Purple” is a 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Most people have seen or heard of Steven Spielberg’s 1985 nonmusical film adaptation starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. Marsha Norman, on the other hand, is the one who transformed this inspirational narrative into a musical and book, with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray and Allee Willis.

The musical is set in rural Georgia and tells its story through an abundance of jazz, ragtime, gospel and blues. The plot revolves around Celie, an African American teenager who is at the mercy of the cruel males in her life. She navigates years of ongoing adversity and cruelty, ultimately leading to independence and self-discovery through love, forgiveness and family.

I was intrigued by the prospect of transforming this serious narrative into a musical. I have a newfound appreciation for the story and its characters after seeing it performed live and in musical form. I can’t help but be captivated and enamored as I listen to the powerful vocal performances and see the well-choreographed dancing. It takes talent to be able to dance and move that much while still sounding fantastic vocally. Additionally, nothing beats hearing the characters express themselves via song, which makes the connection with characters even stronger.

One moving performance is with Celie (TammyRa’ Jackson) and Shug Avery (Dara Hogan). The two sing in perfect sync as they offer a rousing rendition of “What About Love?” — arguably the musical’s anthem and message in its entirety. With precisely timed vocals and lyrics like “I want you to be a story for me that I can believe in forever,” it’s unsurprising that the performance drew one of the audience’s loudest applauses.

It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with Celie and Shug’s closeness and friendship, as they both teach the importance of love and kindness. Finally, after all of life’s difficulties, it is the genuine love of Celie’s sister Nettie (Brittney Thompson) and Shug Avery that transforms Celie for the better, enabling her to discover her full potential and exude confidence from within. The narrative is very inspirational for women and anyone who has persevered in the face of adversity.

If you like the book and film adaptations of “The Color Purple,” you should add attending the live musical to your list, since it is a whole different experience with the same inspirational tale. And if you haven’t read or seen the narrative, I strongly encourage you to see this fantastic cast bring this beautiful and uplifting tale to life.

“The Color Purple” will run through March 27 at the Omaha Community Playhouse, with performances Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available by phone at (402) 553-0800, online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or in person at the OCP Box Office.

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