I know that many of us dread driving into the heart of the city for an 8 p.m. show. The traffic is pretty crazy. Have you ever thought about heading the other way. Milwaukee? There is some pretty slick theater up North with the Pabst bringing in the road companies and my favorite spot, The Milwaukee Rep located next door. What a complex! They are now doing a wonderful production of “The Color Purple” in their Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. The name might seem wild, but what you will see on their stage is one of the best productions of this amazing love story taken from the movie. Directed by Mark Clements on a more open stage than I have ever seen done with this musical. What you will find is two hour and forty five minutes of sheer beauty and entertainment as we learn the story of two sisters, Celie and Nettie. As children (Chanttae Miller and Zuri McGowen) and later Stephanie Umoh as Nettie and Zonya Love as Celie. Might I add, probably the best Celie you will ever see. Her vocal range and acting abilities are emotional highs for the audience.
“The Color Purple” is a story about the love that these two sisters had for each other and how despite life throwing Celie one curve after another, she survives it all. The story spans four decades in the lives of these two girls and those who are part of their lives and is a history lesson of the times and conditions for the African-American community. The book by Marsha Norman covers the movie and original novel and the music and lyrics (Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray) are a combination of Jazz, Musicals and of course Gospel. You may even find yourself clapping your hands in a few places, waiting for the plate to be passed, but it won’t!
This is a solid cast of local talent from Milwaukee, and you will recognize several Chicago talents who take the ride up to Milwaukee to make this show special. Bethany Thomas is one of these talents. Many of us have watched her “grow up” in the Chicago area. From her days in the non-equity companies at smaller theaters to her lead roles in Aurora and Marriott, Bethany owns the stage she is on and in the role of Sofia she once again steals your heart. The other cast members who are true stand-outs are Nathaniel Stampley as “Mister”, the evil man ,who we watch transform over the two plus hours of storytelling , Gilbert L. Bailey as Harpo, his son, and Christina Acosta Robinson as Shrug Avery, a nightclub singer. This is an exciting production filled with the warmth and love that it was meant to bring to audiences, and well worth the trip up to Milwaukee. By the way, we found meter parking on the street, but after six pm, no charge. Lots of dining spots in the theater district at far less than “Big City” prices.
“The Color Purple” will continue at The Rep located at 108 E. Wells Street ( just off the highway) through November 2nd with performances as follows:
Wednesday 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays 7:30 p.m.
Friday 8 p.m.
Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m.
Sunday 2 and 7 p.m.
There are some Wednesday matinees as well- check with box office
Tickets range from $30 and can be purchased at the box office, by calling 414-224-9490 or online at www.MilwaukeeRep.com
There are some special performances as well with featured choirs entertaining you in the lobby prior to the performance. Make a day of it- visit Milwaukee and be surprised!
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click at “The Color Purple”