Original Broadway Cast Recording
Music and Lyrics By: Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray
Distributed By: Angel Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The Color Purple began as a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Alice Walker. The novel tells us the tale of Celie, a black woman who struggles to survive a world filled with hurt and hate and emerges triumphant, finding her own voice and a life worth living. What gives Celie the strength to persevere – the power of love. Alice Walker’s novel was adapted into film by Steven Spielberg starring Whoopie Goldberg as Celie and an ensemble cast that included Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover and Margaret Avery. Performances in that film were so incredibly powerful, and the story so uplifting, that if one had never read the novel, they were prepared to run out to the local bookstore just to purchase a copy of their own.
Now, years later, the award winning novel and landmark film is followed by a musical version produced by Oprah Winfrey, Scott Sanders, Roy Furman, and Quincy Jones. The music and lyrics are written by the talented team of Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray. The role of Celie is taken up by LaChanze, with an ensemble cast that includes Elizabeth Withers-Mendes, Felicia P. Fields, Kingsley Leggs, Reneé Elise Goldsberry, and more.
From the opening track, one realizes that this musical is meant to be a BIG production. Overture readies us for a musical like no other. The lyrics and music of musical version of The Color Purple weave Celie’s story perfectly. They whip up the listener’s imagination to a point where he/she can actually see the goings-on with their mind’s eye. There are powerful renditions such as Hell No! sung by Felicia P. Fields. The lyrics are defiant and forceful and the strength and conviction in Fields’ voice get the point of the song across perfectly. There are beautiful ballads such as Too Beautiful for Words sung by Elizabeth Withers-Mendes and What About Love!, both of which tell of newly found love and a yearning for more. Listeners will laugh as Mister gets what’s coming to him in Celie’s Curse. They will cheer as Celie comes into her own in Miss Celie’s Pants.
The most amazing aspect to this musical soundtrack is the emotions the listener goes through. The visual display is unnecessary. The lyrics move the listener in such a way as to make him/her become incredibly angry at the abuse of poor, innocent, weak-minded Celie, cheer for her strong and defiant daughter-in-law Sophia, hope for the promise of a love-filled relationship between Celie and Shug, and rejoice at Celie’s hard earned success and hard won happiness.
Different styles of music add to the enjoyable listening experience as listeners are treated to blues, jazz, ragtime, and gospel. One gets the distinct impression that the performers were completely enjoying themselves in this production of The Color Purple. One can also tell that the artists were extremely dedicated to giving their audience the best performance imaginable. Indeed, they were unbelievably successful in that goal.
The Original Broadway Cast Recording of The Color Purple is an incredible album that should definitely not be missed!