WANT TO GO?
"The Color Purple"
Presented by Charleston Light Opera Guild
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday, May 11-12, 18-19 and 3 p.m. May 13
WHERE: Civic Center Little Theater
INFO: 304-343-2287 or www.charlestonlightoperaguild.orgCHARLESTON, W.Va. --At age 31, Janelle Williams already has had some big roles in Charleston Light Opera Guild productions. She was Bloody Mary in "South Pacific" and Deena, one of the three singers in "Dreamgirls."
But playing Celie in "The Color Purple" is her first leading role since high school.
She'll portray the main character in Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel when the musical opens Friday and runs for the next two weekends at the Civic Center Little Theater. The Guild is the first community theater group in the country to stage "The Color Purple."
Williams wanted the role. She loved the Oscar-nominated movie when she saw it in middle school and first read the novel in an African-American literature class at WVU. She's read the book four times, mostly recently in late January, right after she was cast as Celie.
She wanted to get to know Celie, a poor young woman with low self-esteem living in the rural South abused first by her father and then her husband. "How did she imagine what Africa was like? Where was her quiet place that gave her the strength to keep going?"
Williams asked those questions and others to understand her character's transformation, not only in age over a 40-year span, but also in her beliefs and personality.
In talking about her role, it's obvious that Williams likes Celie and at times forgets she's a fictional character. As a consultant, Williams said she wants to go back in time and advise the young Celie of her worth and beauty.
In the song "I'm Here," an older Celie finally realizes she loves herself for who she really is. "The first time I sang it in front of the cast, I got choked up," said Williams.
She promises that no one will leave a performance of "The Color Purple" without being touched in some way. Some of the messages delivered in the play, she said, are: