The Poteet Theatre located in a smallish space in the basement of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church has established a reputation for executing complicated productions with perfect simplicity. Few directors have the vision to imagine musicals with impressively large casts and period costumes staged in such a seemingly restrictive space, yet the Poteet Theatre routinely supports their directors in mounting these productions.
“The Color Purple” is the current Poteet theatre show and is possibly one of the most ambitious projects to present. Featuring a massive cast duplicating many ensemble cast members in additional minor roles, the total number of cast members comes to a whopping 82 souls. Director Jay Prock manages and stages this cast naturally and strategically with flawless results.
“The Color Purple” is based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker. Playwright Marsha Norman is responsible for the excellent script as a musical. While the novel is familiar to many, the movie featuring Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover is known to us all. In paring down a book with complicated and somewhat controversial themes to a 2-hour movie or musical, authors must rely on the sensitivity of the director and cast to restore the nuances that may be lost through comprehensive interpretation. While Norman’s script and the music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray do an excellent job of translating Alice Walker’s novel, the ultimate responsibility rests with Jay Prock as Director and Kevin Smith, Musical Director and, of course, a brilliant cast. They do not disappoint. In this production the essential hard-hitting, tragic yet uplifting message is clear. To mention all the superb cast members is impossible; yet they all contribute precisely, intuitively and masterfully.
The leading cast members in this work are outstanding in every case. The role of Celie is played by Tiffany Mann. “The Color Purple” is her story and she tells it beautifully in song and emotion. Mann’s performance includes the nuances that make the story universal. “The Color Purple” is a story of oppression and the struggle of a poor black woman in the deep south of the early 20th century. Mann’s performance allows the audience to realize and identify with man’s inhumanity to man with clarity. Mann is a talented actress, a superbly talented singer and she is, apparently, an empath.
Complementing Mann’s performance with extraordinary skill are Regina J. Banks as Shug Avery and Isaiah Bailey as Mister. Superb performances are also given by Tinasha LaRaye as Nettie, Kelli Gates as Sofia and Elvie Ellis as Harpo.
Backing up these six leading performers are 76 equally refreshing talents standing apart for their individual excellence and standing together in absolute unity spiritually, expressively, humanely.
Jay Prock’s direction of “The Color Purple” the musical about love can be seen at the Poteet Theatre at St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 N.W. 15th Street in Oklahoma City. For tickets call 405-609-1023 or visit poteettheatre.com. Show times are 8pm Thursday through Saturday with 3pm Sunday matinees through April 1, 2012. Don’t miss this one.