The Color Purple | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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This earthy, lyrical musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer-winning best seller captures its emotional intimacy even while framing it with typical Broadway visual spectacle. Playwright Marsha Norman and veteran songwriters Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray distill Walker's tale of Celie, a beaten-down black woman in the jim crow south who finds love with promiscuous blues singer Shug, then learns to love herself after the other woman deserts her. The show isn't packed with hits, but the songwriting team delivers a jazz-blues-R & B score in which every number suits the characters and their sometimes brutal, sometimes mystical experiences. Chicago director Gary Griffin, known for his off-Loop productions of My Fair Lady and A Little Night Music, coaxes honest, intense performances from his gifted cast, including the stunning Jeannette Bayardelle as Celie, Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child as Shug, and Felicia P. Fields as their friend Sofia, whose anger at racism and domestic abuse leads to both violence and redemption. The gorgeous design and Donald Byrd's exuberant choreography create a vivid vision of African-American culture in the first half of the 20th century. a Through 7/22: Tue 7:30 PM, Wed 2 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2 and 8 PM, Sun 2 and 7:30 PM. See chicagoreader.com for complete schedule. Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph, 312-902-1400, $28-$85.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Paul Kolnik.

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