With a triumphant debut, last night the smash hit Broadway phenomenon The Color Purple, had its Australasian premiere in Melbourne to a long-held standing ovation.
With an all Australian cast, the premiere follows on from the Broadway production blitzing the 2016 Tony Awards, securing ‘Best Revival of a Musical’ and with leading lady Cynthia Erivoa scoring the ‘Best Actress’.
For Australians unfamiliar with the story, The Color Purple is a exploration of race, gender, and sexuality, all the while providing some of the most moving and hopeful songs to ever grace the contemporary stage.
Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller captured in Stephen Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film. The story spans four decades across three continents, and chronicles the feminist evolution of an African-American woman, in a story of overcoming adversity and the healing power of love and faith.
Check out the Australian ensemble spine-tingling performance below:
Last night in Melbourne heralded an incredible beginning to its first Australasian run. The story follows the character of Celie, performed in the Australian production by Jayme-Lee Hanekom, previously cast in the stage production of The Lion King.
Celie is a downtrodden but optimistic young woman, who has always lived in the shadow of tragedy: the loss of two children, a traumatic marriage and horrific treatment by the men in her life. However, when she meets the charismatic, sexy and headstrong Shug Avery (Thando Sikwila), her life is transformed.
Here’s Hanekom speaking about scoring the part, and playing the iconic role of Celie.
We checked out the premier and the cast pour everything they have into the performance. On a bare-bones set glittering with suspended lights but you barely give it a second glance. Instead, what takes you by the collar from the minute the orchestra swells, are the voices that intermingle and soar; telling the story of the strength of one woman.
Hanekom is a vision. Her voice, clear as day yet somehow ragged and raw, sent chills consistently in a flawless performance. She imbues Celie with a grace and poise that serves to give the character an incredible life beyond the words on the page. She makes you believe her. To the point where you are standing with her, through every tragedy and delight she faced, as she screams for God to listen to her. You are unequivocally on her team.
Sikwila as Shug Avery also delivers in spades – Jennifer Hudson who? Her belting bellow and perfect comedic timing injected some much needed laughter into the show. Helped along by the talented Vanessa Menjivar playing Sofia, who exceeded in her physical character acting but also in the moments of real emotion, made a well-rounded and complex performance.
Anna Francesca Armenia as Nettie was a delightful scene-stealer, who showed her versatility in moments of real anguish that she wasn’t afraid to show the audience.
The masterful direction by Robbie Carmellotti has the audience swinging from wild exuberance. The perfect song to finish this genius musical – written by the Norman, Russell, Willis and Bray team – ‘The Color Purple’ really resonated and hummed through the theatre, and the joyful strains lifted into the air above Melbourne.
The Color Purple is running at Chapel off Chapel, Prahran from 13 October to 6 November. To book tickets and for more info visit the website.