The Color Purple’s book, movie and musical have all told the extraordinary story of a Celie, a brutally oppressed woman who against all odds, overcomes racism, abuse and misogyny to find her unique place in 20th century America. Not seen in London since the Menier’s sensational production in 2013, the musical returned to the capital this week for a one night only concert-staged fundraiser.
Long before the era of the modern day jukebox musical, Hollywood was already hard at work re-hashing classic George and Ira Gershwin numbers from the 20s and weaving them into Vincente Minnelli’s 1951 movie An American In Paris. Inspired by Gershwin’s orchestral work of the same name, it was Gene Kelly’s dance work alongside Minelli’s vision that was to propel the picture to multi-Oscar success.
Highlights from the evening were excerpts from The Wonderful Musician, two specific numbers from Gould’s most recent project performed by Hywel Dowsell and new graduate Danny Michaels. The pair sang Music Turns Me On and As Long As I Have Music respectively, giving very different performances and taking the audience from hysterical laughter to silence and awe.
In the unnamed town that the five characters inhabit, any hope or joy is promptly quashed and left in a pool of despair on the floor, just like the mysteriously dying rats that plague the streets. It’s not a fun evening, but nonetheless makes for a formidable and incredibly disquieting piece of theatre.