Say the words ‘Broadway musical’ to the average theatergoer and their heads will fill with images of splashy production numbers, catchy tunes with snappy lyrics, danced and sung by a smiling cast in flashy costumes.
While none of that happens in The Color Purple, the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical whose revival will be at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre through Dec. 3, cast member Carrie Compere says the lack of traditional Broadway pizazz makes for a much more intimate and ultimately satisfying evening of entertainment.
“The revival production is even more pared down than the Broadway show was. There aren’t a lot of props beyond some chairs hanging on the wall and there’s a minimum of costume changes,” explained Compere, who plays the part of Sofia in the show in Boston and performed in the Broadway production. “I think it makes for a much more intimate connection with the audience; it keeps them rooted in the story without too many distractions and helps the music become a character all its own.”
Based on the Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and the Warner Bros. / Amblin Entertainment motion picture, The Color Purple is adapted for the stage by Tony- and Pulitzer-winner Marsha Norman with music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray. With a soul-raising score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues, The Color Purple gives an exhilarating new spirit to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a young woman’s journey to love and triumph in the American South.
Like a lot of fans of the story, Compere first learned the story of The Color Purple reading Walker’s book, back when she was in high school, then seeing the 1985 Oscar-winning movie directed by Steven Spielberg. (Oprah Winfrey won a Best Actress in a Supporting Role Oscar for her portrayal of Sophia in the film.) She also saw the original musical on tour. “The book will always be important to me because of Alice Walker’s beautiful words,” she said. “I love the movie: Oprah did an amazing job bringing Sophia to life. And seeing it all come together in the musical was phenomenal.”
With all those unique interpretations of her character leading the way, Compere said it was initially a challenge to find her own voice for Sophia until she made a personal connection. “I’ve never experienced abuse like she has, but I know what it’s like to want to put up walls around you to protect yourself. I think most people do” she said. “But you can also fight back, and that’s what I admire about Sophia. She fights back.”
The Color Purple will be at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre through Dec. 3. For more information, visit ColorPurple.com