“The Color Purple” – The Phoenix Theatre Company

Theater Review – March 7, 2022


The Phoenix Theatre Company, Hormel Theatre
Phoenix AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

“The Color Purple” explores Black men’s exploitation of their women.  Although set in Georgia in the early-to-mid-20th century, the musical, based on the popular 1985 film, talks of the sisterhood of Black women and the struggles within the African-American community to correct treatment issues.

Marsha Norman’s book and the nuanced but towering score by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray intensifies the story as it probes Celie’s struggles dealing with and coming to terms with an abusive husband who didn’t like her to relate to her sister Nettie.  Celie discovers that women are ignored and mistreated by their men who feel women are nothing more than to provide their physical needs and comforts.  Celie then figures out ways to combat her husband’s backward thinking and ultimately to reacquaint herself with her sister.

Celie handles other distressing and challenging wrongs and by the musical’s uplifting conclusion Celie has become independent as she has escaped her ridiculous shackles. Perhaps the men use their power to compensate for their awful treatment by white men.  But as the expression goes, two wrongs do not make a right.

The Phoenix Theatre Company’s superb production allows this rarely seen show to have an amazing impact as the plight of women is again at the forefront of discussion and deliberation. Gifted female performers bring these challenged women to pulsating life and the ensemble’s men bring their characters crass lack of understanding to life as the bigoted and bias people they are.

Daryl D. Brooks sharply staged production moves swiftly as it eloquently tells this tragic tale.  Rueben D. Echoles’ dances help give the show a historic feel as do stark sets and the earth-toned costumes.  Pointed lighting directs audience attention to critical story parts.

It is the superb cast that takes this production to great artistic heights.  Andrea Fleming’s Celie is a sacred, subservient woman initially who grows as she realizes the critical importance of her worth and contributions and how her errant husband’s hope to ban her involvement and perspective.  Jonice Bernard’s Nettie, is also a strong woman willing to help her sister to have a complete life.  The men are despicable as they must be to portray these shallow but dominate men.  The entire ensemble have rich voices that brings the strong score to life as the songs enhance various aspects of the story.

“The Color Purple” shows an interesting and often unexplored aspect of Black lives.  With a superbly staged and magnificently performed production, the show couldn’t be more timely right now as our society grapples with similar issues.  The show runs through May 1.  To order tickets, call The Phoenix Theatre Company box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A