Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

The Color Purple
National Tour
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's review of Dave

Adrianna Hicks and N'Jameh Camara
Photo by Matthew Murphy
With a rich score encompassing gospel, blues, and musical theater and a powerful singing and acting ensemble, the touring production of The Color Purple now in the Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in Washington is an inspirational experience.

This musical adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and Steven Spielberg's 1986 film version, originally opened on Broadway in 2005, but John Doyle, credited with direction and musical staging, streamlined the action and removed the clutter in this revival, which opened on Broadway in 2016. Marsha Norman's book and the songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray serve as the basis for a production that uses artifice—often the actors face the audience rather than each other—to find a deeper truth.

The heart of The Color Purple is its central character, Celie (Adrianna Hicks), who perseveres from poverty and abuse through to love and ultimately self-acceptance. It's a killer role, taking the character on a 40-year journey beginning as a lonely 14-year-old, pregnant for the second time. She loses faith at times, but she keeps moving forward, and Hicks commands the stage throughout. Her voice conveys all the facets of the character, from whispered prayers to awe and eventual triumph.

Other standouts are Gavin Gregory as Mister, who marries Celie because he needs a housekeeper and someone to watch his children; Carrie Compere and Jay Donnell as outspoken Sofia (watch her literally bend over backward to avoid a fight) and her easygoing husband, Mister's son Harpo; N'Jameh Camara as Celie's devoted sister Nettie; and Carla R. Stewart, who brings both grit and glamour to Shug Avery, the hard-living blues singer Mister loves, who changes Celie's life.

The scaled-back set (also designed by Doyle) consists mostly of a few wood-plank panels, mismatched chairs, some of which hang on the walls, and some evocative props. Ann Hould-Ward's costumes start in the earth colors of poor farmers, then brighten with the addition of African textiles, and blossom as Celie discovers her skills as a seamstress.

Kennedy Center
The Color Purple
July 31st - August 26th, 2018
Book by Marsha Norman
Music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray
Based on the novel The Color Purple by Alice Walker and the Warner Bros./Amblin Entertainment Motion Picture
Adam: Darnell Abraham
Guard: Amar Atkins
Bobby/Buster: Kyle E. Baird
Church Lady: Angela Birchett
Nettie: N'Jameh Camara
Sofia: Carrie Compere
Harpo: Jay Donnell
Squeak: Erica Durham
Mister: Gavin Gregory
Celie: Adrianna Hicks
Church Lady: Bianca Horn
Grady: Mekhai Lee
Olivia: Gabrielle Reid
Preacher/Ol' Mister: C.E. Smith
Shug Avery: Carla R. Stewart
Pa: J.D. Webster
Church Lady: Brit West
Direction and musical staging by John Doyle
Eisenhower Theater, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
2700 F St. NW, Washington, DC
Ticket Information: (800) 444-1324 or (202) 467-4600 or

For more information on the tour, visit