There is no doubt the 2005 musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning novel (which also draws on Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster 1985 movie) has a wonderful score, packed wall-to-wall with powerful, soul-stirring music and clever lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray—all seasoned veterans of the music industry when they began collaborating on this show. The original cast album for the 2015 Broadway revival even won a Grammy.
Director Lili-Anne Brown, her choreographer, Breon Arzell, and her strong cast of triple threats take full advantage of the superb score. Much of the inner life of the main character, Celie, and her journey from shy, abused daughter of a sharecropper to a happy, assertive clothes designer we learn through the show’s songs and dances. And that is plenty, though it also helps that Celie is played by Eben K. Logan, an actor with enough power and grace to play a character who’s the very personification of the expression “still waters run deep.”
The score for this show is so successful it almost doesn’t need a book. Good thing, because it almost doesn’t have one. Marsha Norman does the bare minimum with Walker’s story to keep it going—she sets scenes, introduces characters, and then gets out of the way. But with a production as thoroughly entertaining as this one, that is just an observation, not a criticism. v