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

Arts & Culture » Theater Review

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.


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


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

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Reader Revolutionary $35/month →  
  Rabble Rouser $25/month →  
  Reader Radical $15/month →  
  Reader Rebel  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 

Add a comment