“They see more ’bout how things really are now”
After garnering Tony Awards for Best Revival and Best Actress in a Musical, the revival of The Color Purple is even more of a hot property so it is little surprise that a cast recording was made to crystallise this extraordinary reimagining of the show. The album was made late last year so actually came before award season but the writing was already on the wall at that point.
And it’s interesting to now have this to compare the Original Cast Recording, one which hasn’t gone down in history too well although I thought it sounded exemplary on listening to it recently. What John Doyle’s revival does seem to do though, is to strip away some of the Broadway-isms of the show to drill down to something more elemental. Something that was in ample evidence when I saw it at the Menier and which has been heightened here.
Notions of authenticity when it comes to theatricality are always bogus but there is undoubtedly a stronger feeling of Georgia in the air here, the smaller orchestra proving grittier in these arrangements and a new set of performance imbuing new, different, life into these characters. Cynthia Erivo took that Tony home and it is easy to see why, the raw truth in her voice perfectly suited to Celie’s arduous journey, finally flourishing into beautiful, soaring, warmth.
But it is Danielle Brooks (another escapee from Orange is the New Black – Kimiko Glenn is currently in Waitress and Uzo Aduba starred in The Maids on the West End) as Sofia who is the real revelation here (Erivo’s talents are of no surprise to UK theatregoers after all), a stunning performance of character that crackles with life and demands that you listen to every damn word she got to say and she needs to say…
Joaquina Kalukango’s Nettie is well done and it’s no crime that she’s not Renée Elise Goldsberry, but I do have to say that I was disappointed in Jennifer Hudson’s Shug, a vocal turn that does little to delve into the heart and damaged soul of this woman, beyond the superficial sass of ‘Push Da Button’. I’d love to be able to hear Heather Headley’s take on Shug instead, she’s now playing nightly at the Bernard B Jacobs Theatre as Hudson’s replacement, the only lead to have thus far left the production.
So it’s a bit of a Celie’s choice – I like both of the Cast Recordings for The Color Purple in different ways, you should probably invest in them both!