CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of "The Color Purple" far eclipses anything else I have seen this year. A powerful musical adaptation of Alice Walker's famous novel, this show is the must-see of the season.
The cast does an excellent job of exploring the layers of complexity that existed in the lives of the black community adapting to life only a generation removed from slavery. In a world filled with abuse, incest, cruelty and poverty, seeds of love, light and humor abound.
Celie, played by Janelle A. Williams, a child whose life has known little joy and even less pleasure, still clings to her faith and to the two strong friends who enter her life through unconventional circumstances: Sofia (Shayla Leftridge), her strong-willed and powerful sister-in-law, and Shug Avery (Nakeila Killing), her husband's lover. She also has the memory of her sister, Nettie (Meshea La'Shawn Poore), to keep her strong.
Williams does a fantastic job of drawing the audience to her, inspiring a feeling of camaraderie instead of the pity one would expect to feel for a child forced into such heinous abuse and mistreatment. Williams is absolutely divine, with a high voice that's sweet but still robust and full of soul.
All the women of this production are amazing, with strong voices and strong wills. Coming together in melodious harmonies and impressive dance numbers, the cast does a particularly wonderful job creating an all-encompassing spectacle.
The audience is swept into the emotion and action of each scene. Transported from the Deep South to the shores of Africa, the company manages all these feats with minimal sets and props, creating these vastly different worlds with only their voices, superior costumes and soaring accompaniment.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the absolute perfection that is the harmony of The Church Ladies: Doris, Darlene and Jarlene, played by Cindy Moss, Shefica A. Heyliger and Leisha English-Gibson. These women almost steal the show every time they step foot on the stage. A hysterical blend of gossipy busybodies, Greek chorus and hen-house biddies, they are absolutely flawless.
Although this show deals with difficult subject matter, it does so in an uplifting spirit. If you miss this production, you are missing a rare and glorious opportunity to be entertained and spirited away.
"The Color Purple" plays at the Little Theater again at 7:30 p.m. May 11, 12 18 and 19 and 3 p.m. May 13.
Go see it. You'll be glad you did.