A simple set allows the characters to shine in ‘The Color Purple’ musical

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Adrianna Hicks (Celie) and N'Jameh Camara (Nettie) and the North American tour cast of The Color Purple. Photo by Matthew Murphy

When it comes to Broadway sets, “The Color Purple’s” is sparse. There’s just one set — a rough-hewn wooden back wall on which wooden chairs hang. The costumes are austere, too.

It’s perfect for telling the reimagined musical based on Alice Walker’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that tells the story of Celie, a black woman who struggles to overcome a lifetime of abuse, poverty, and bigotry in the hopes of one day being reunited with her sister in Africa, said Adrianna Hicks, who plays the lead character.

Having everything stripped down to its core forces audiences to focus on the depth of the leading characters, not on the Broadway glitz and glamour, she said. It also forces the audience to look inward.

“The show is timeless. It touches so many people in the audience,” Hicks said. “Everyone walks away with a feeling of resurrection, revival. When you have upper class middle-aged men and young girls walking away with tears in their eyes, you know you’ve got something special.”

“The Color Purple” opens in Greenville on Tuesday, March 13, for an eight-show run.

“The Color Purple” is set in rural Georgia from 1909 to 1949. The story is told mostly through letters from Celie, the musical’s main character, to God and the sister from whom she’s been separated. The show opens with her as a 14-year-old girl, pregnant by her father for the second time. Eventually, her father marries her off to a widower who wants her to take care of his four children, cook, and clean. Over the next two decades, Celie struggles and grows.

Steven Spielberg made “The Color Purple” into a film in 1985 that received 11 Oscar nominations. Oprah Winfrey, who earned an Oscar nomination for the role of Sofia in the film, was one of the producers of the large-scale Broadway production that ran for nearly three years after its 2005 opening. The current touring production is based on the London revival.

Hicks, who was in the Broadway ensemble and played seven of the nine woman characters, got the lead role without an audition.

“I screamed in front of a lot of people,” Hicks said of when she got the call. It’s Hicks’ first lead role and first Broadway national tour. “It was one of the best moments of my career. It’s a great role. It explores such an array of emotions. Celie is such a three-dimensional character. I knew it would be a challenge.”

Hicks said she started acting in high school, although she would watch classic Disney movies as a child and re-enact them. She studied musical theater at the University of Oklahoma because it combined her love of singing, acting, and dancing.


“The Color Purple”
WHEN: March 13-18 (the Saturday, March 17, 2 p.m. performance will be an ASL signed performance)
WHERE: Peace Center, 300 S. Main St. 
TICKETS: $35-$95
INFO: peacecenter.org or 467-3000

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