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