On its awards-laden trek from page to screen and stage, The Color Purple has preached hope and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of oppression, racial segregation and domestic violence. First as a Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel penned by Alice Walker, then as Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film starring Whoopi Goldberg, and most recently as a Tony Award-winning musical stage play that transferred to London in 2013.
Director Blitz Bazawule’s big screen adaptation of the theatre staging draws some of its emotional firepower from American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino as Celie, a survivor of physical and sexual abuse in early 20th-century rural Georgia who is determined to find her place in a cruel, unforgiving world.
Married off to farmer Mister (Colman Domingo), Celie is worn down to quiet subservience until her husband’s mistress, sultry jazz singer Shug Avery (Taraji P Henson), sashays into town and lights a fire of rebellion. Confidante Sofia (Danielle Brooks) fans the flames and sets in motion Celie’s hard-fought self-empowerment, echoed in the barnstorming I’m Here.
The steaminess rises for Henson’s show-stopping solo: a sweat-glistening performance of Push Da Button wearing an alluring red beaded dress and feather headpiece, which gets a riverside juke joint a-jumpin’ and our toes tapping.
In the darkest hours, music is a guiding light.