By Ben Rimalower
31 Aug 2013
|photo by Paul Kolnik|
Fantasia Barrino as Celie in The Color Purple
I can remember so well my vivid experience reading Alice Walker's The Color Purple when I was just 10 years old. Most people would say I was too young for the graphic violence and dark turns of the story. I was, to say the least, riveted. Perhaps it was my youth and inexperience that engendered my understanding of the main character, Celie, with an absolute innocence and sweetness. The book is written with great compassion and makes the story extremely accessible, and so I related to all parts of Celie and found Whoopi Goldberg's Oscar-nominated portrayal of Celie in Stephen Spielberg's 1986 film a completely satisfying screen realization of the character. I was far less moved by the 2005 Broadway musical version and it was somewhat begrudgingly that I returned to the show when Fantasia Barrino was playing Celie. Barrino's wide-eyed openness and lived-in voice immediately commanded my attention and pushed emotional buttons in a way no element of the production had even come near on my first viewing. Fantasia's singing had a visceral gospel quality that imbued all her songs with a tremendous sense of urgency and importance. She had me in the palm of her hand long before she got to her impassioned 11-o'clock number, "I'm Here." Continued...