(HADDON TOWNSHIP, NJ) — The Ritz Theatre Company has a special treat in store for theatre, literature, and culture enthusiasts throughout the month of February, as the organization gets set to present a stirring production of The Color Purple. A musical adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the show is hailed as an inspiring story of hope, a testament to the healing power of love, and a celebration of life featuring a joyous score of jazz, ragtime, gospel, and blues. Directed by Kyrus Keenan Westcott, the production runs at The Ritz from February 10th through February 26th.
“The Color Purple is an incredibly powerful and inspiring musical,” says Producing Artistic Director Bruce A. Curless. “I am excited to spotlight this profound show, with this dedicated cast and production team, to our audiences. We are excited to present this work for our community and beyond, and we are sure you will leave inspired and challenged.”
Based on the 1982 novel of the same name, The Color Purple spans 35 years in the life of Celie, a teenage African-American girl living in Georgia who is given by her abusive stepfather to an even more abusive husband. Though Celie spends most of her days as a servant in her own household, she, cut off by her husband from those she loves, tries to remain hopeful that she will ultimately be reunited with her sister Nettie and her children by way of her stepfather, Adam and Olivia. Over the years, Celie, increasingly jaded by her lot, finds ways to cope with life—a potential lover in the fabulous Shug Avery, a friend in her stepson’s wife Sofia, a love of making stretchable pants that turns into a booming business. In the grand scheme of things, Celie learns that the most important thing is that she is a survivor, and that no matter what happens to her, she is still here.
“Where do I begin when it comes to describing how artistically fulfilling this production is for me?” ruminates Mr. Westcott, who also directed the highly acclaimed Ritz production of The Wiz back in 2019. “Since I saw the revival on Broadway, and the subsequent tours, I have been working so hard to one day get my hands on this show. The Color Purple is, quite frankly, a true theatrical adventure that tells a unique, powerful story that is unlike any other show I’ve worked on.”
The Color Purple premiered at the Alliance Theatre Company in Atlanta, Georgia and opened on Broadway on November 1, 2005, where it was nominated for eleven 2006 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The distinguished London Off-West End production moved to Broadway in 2015, and ultimately went on to win the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical. For both Broadway productions, celebrated actresses LaChanze and Cynthia Erivo took home the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for their respective portrayals of Celie.
“What a perfect time to do this beautiful musical,” continues Mr. Westcott. “While this story has been told for many years, it still holds up and we still continue to reference it in 2023. There are many reasons why this is the case, but I think it can be boiled down to the fact that it breaks the stigma surrounding the abuse of black women in America. With this abuse comes a silence, a silence that has plagued our culture for years. Audiences can 100% relate with Celie’s journey from the beginning until the end. This story proudly showcases black women in the context of progress, not silence.”
Rounding out the creative team on this Ritz production of The Color Purple are music and vocal director Benita Farmer, set designer Matthew Weil, lighting designer Jen Donsky, costume designer Megan Iafolla, and stage manager Dorothy Trusty. The cast features Shamiea Thompson as Celie, Vedra Chandler as Shug Avery, Faye Telemaco-Beane as Sofia, Richard Johnson as Mister, Jerald Bennett as Harpo, Chalistin Cooke as Nettie, and Linda Best, Audrey Dendy-Hightower, Benita Farmer, Sai Ismail, Jordan Konteh, Porsha Mitchell, Kevin Ray, Imani Redman, and Florence Taylor as members of the show’s multitalented ensemble. All involved are more than ready to bring this vital story to the Ritz stage for the very first time.
“I’m hopeful that audiences are able to join Celie on her journey, and, as a result, hopefully understand a Black culture that we’re so incredibly proud of,” concludes Mr. Westcott. “Strong female relationships. God and religion. Self-discovery and self-actualization. Race and racism. Gender roles. All of these themes are beautifully and tragically visited throughout the course of this musical. I promise you, this musical will entertain you, while challenging you to think real hard about how our country may be many years removed from the Civil War, but the repercussions are still being felt to this day.”
Performance Dates & Times: Friday, February 10 at 8:00pm; Saturday, February 11 at 8:00pm; Sunday, February 12 at 2:00pm; Wednesday, February 15 at 7:30pm; Friday, February 17 at 8:00pm; Saturday, February 18 at 8:00pm ; Sunday, February 19 at 2:00pm; Wednesday, February 22 at 7:30pm; Friday, February 24 at 8:00pm; Saturday, February 25 at 8:00pm; and Sunday, February 26 at 2:00pm.
Ticket Prices: General Admission — $30; Artist/Student Rush — $15; Groups of 10+ — $20 per ticket (must be booked in advance). Tickets are available for purchase online, by calling the box office at (856) 288-3500, and at the box office.
The Ritz Theatre Company is located at 915 White Horse Pike in Haddon Township, New Jersey.