Big-Time Players Shine in Southern Classic

By Daniel Jones | June 22nd, 2014

BOOMER's Daniel Jones reviews Virginia Rep. Theatre's production of "The Color Purple," playing at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre until Aug. 3.

A big-time show has just come to the River City – and it’s here for most of the summer.

Last Friday, June 20, the premiere of The Color Purple at Broad Street’s Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre – which drew a packed house – thundered and bellowed with uplifting scores of jazz, ragtime, gospel, African music and blues.

And it’s the top show to see in Richmond this summer.

A joyful musical adapted for the stage from Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning epistolary novel of the same name, the Virginia Repertory Theatre production of the Broadway play follows the personal awakening of Celie, played by the lovely and much-coveted Arlington-based actress Felicia Curry.

It’s an inspiring family saga of a downtrodden young African-American woman whose tragic and brutal life in the Jim Crow South turns triumphant by the end. Through love, Celie finds the strength to discover her unique voice in the world.

Curry says of the character she plays in a recent article for “She goes from being this sad child who’s really reserved, feels like nobody loves her, to this woman who knows without a shadow of a doubt that no matter what happens she is loved, she is good enough, she is strong enough, she is beautiful enough, and you see that through the course of this two-hour play.”

The musical is quite different from the 1985 film with Oprah, Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg.

With action-packed, impressive dance scenes – accompanied with a live band – the night was at times a loud and powerful concert, later a celebration, and during another scene, an African dancing ritual of some sort.

Most impressive was the performers’ stamina in voice and dance during the two-plus-hour play.

“I am beyond excited to bring this beautiful production to the Richmond audience. This show is a story of hope and acceptance in the most challenging circumstances,” says director Chase Kiffen in a press release from the theatre company.

He assembled the outstanding cast of thirty-five along with a live band, and speaks about the energy behind the production.

“The combination of authentic gospel voices with the most sought-after musical theatre performers on the East Coast will bring a thrilling and emotional experience to the November Theatre,” Kiffen adds.

The cast demonstrates a range of professional expertise; some members have theatre and dance backgrounds, others are jazz and gospel singers.

There’s no doubt as an audience member that these performers are some of the best in the business. A truly talented and impressive bunch.

Curry’s portrayal of Celie, who was in most, if not all, scenes, was commendable. But the show had no lack of the finest and most gifted performers: Jerold E. Solomon played a brutal and imposing “Mister,” with local star Desiree Roots Centeio (Sofia) and Carolyn Minor-Daughtry (Shug Avery), who had no acting experience or formal vocal training prior to winning her role for the show, playing strong supporting roles and even stronger women.

Virginia Rep’s presentation of The Color Purple was truly an uplifting experience, one that reminds us there is, most times, a rainbow at the end of the road.

Expect a lot of buzz about the show in the coming months. It will be talked about.

The must-see musical will be performed most of the summer, until Aug. 3, at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre, 114 W Broad St. in Richmond.

For tickets, which start at $36, call 804-282-2620. More information:


All shows at the Sara Belle and Neil November Theatre: 114 W. Broad St.

Wed 6/25/14 2 p.m.

Thu 6/26/14 8 p.m.  

Fri 6/27/14 8 p.m.  

Sat 6/28/14 8 p.m.  

Sun 6/29/14 4 p.m.   

Wed 7/2/14 7 p.m.   

Thu 7/3/14 8 p.m.  

Sat 7/5/14 8 p.m.    

Sun 7/6/14 4 p.m.   

Thu 7/10/14 8 p.m.  

Fri 7/11/14 8 p.m.    

Sat 7/12/14 8 p.m.  

Sun 7/13/14 4 p.m.   

Thu 7/17/14 8 p.m.  

Fri 7/18/14 8 p.m.  

Sat 7/19/14 8 p.m.  

Sun 7/20/14 4 p.m.   

Thu 7/24/14 8 p.m.  

Fri 7/25/14 8 p.m.    

Sat 7/26/14 2 p.m.   

Sat 7/26/14 8 p.m.  

Sun 7/27/14 4 p.m.    

Thu 7/31/14 8 p.m.  

Fri 8/1/14 8 p.m.   

Sat 8/2/14 8 p.m.

Sun 8/3/14 4 p.m.

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