Salt Lake City is lucky to have several amazing theatre companies, but, unfortunately, they don't have a Broadway budget. With The Color Purple, you get what you pay for. Immaculate costumes and intricate, moving sets add color and vibrancy, but the meat of the performance is the epic tale of Selie (played by Dayna Jarae Dantzler). Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, it delves into a difficult turn-of-the-century rural Georgia and hits on selfishness, lust, longing, love and the like—a recipe for quality storytelling. However, throughout its history, it's been controversial, to say the least, and has been one of the most frequently challenged books of the century.
That said, many critics didn't think that it could be turned into a musical, and, luckily for this performance's audience, they were wrong. While the sometimes cheery nature of the songs can detract from the tragic nature of the story, it's not overwhelmingly. Specifically, the solo or duet songs were almost unbelievable as black Southern in their tone and cadence—standing in stark juxtaposition to the spot-on spoken accents—but were still entertaining.
Dantzler, along with Pam Trotter as the easily likable Sofia, Taprena Augustine as the chic and heart-breaking Shug Avery, Edward Smith as mean old Mister, and more, led a brilliant, soaring performance. With perfectly executed dancing and ensemble songs that shook with Southern gospel flare, they brought us into their world for the long, nearly three hour performance. Many attendees already knew the story, but emotions dipped and escalated, culminating in an explosion of tears when Selie was reunited with her children and her long-lost sister Nettie. However well that you might know the story (or, even if you don't at all) The Color Purple live never disappoints.
Broadway Across America: The Color Purple @ Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South, 801-355-2787, Nov. 16-21, $30-$52.50. BroadwayAcrossAmerica.com