Bleeding Red, Belting Out the Blues: The Color Purple Shows Great Acting in OmahaMar 04, 2022 03:21PM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman
Photos by Robertson Photography
Returning to Omaha Community Playhouse Thursday, March 4, felt fantastic. I had not seen a play at Omaha’s jewel of a venue post-pandemic, and the return felt familiar and excitingly new at once.
Return is a frequent phrase in the playbill for The Color Purple, which opens tonight and runs through March 27. The show is filled with seasoned actors, as proved by the production.
The show is based on the novel and Broadway hit of the same name, and the story itself is moving, but often deeply tragic. The music within the show varies from jazz to gospel to blues, and makes the theatrical light-hearted enough to keep patrons from weeping throughout.
The musical uses a sparse set and, often, understated costuming, making the acting and singing the focus of the show. That means the actors need to bring their A games. This production stars TammyRa’ as “Celie,” a homely, abused woman who eventually finds her friends, and her voice. TammyRa’ had no problem finding her voice, starting with the opening number of “Somebody Gonna Love You,” in which “Celie” is about 14 years old. Throughout the play, “Celie” ages about 30 years, and TammyRa’ portrays a 45-year-old, life-hardened woman as well as a 14-year-old girl.
The other actors embodied the characters—from the cruel “Mister” (Jus.B) to the fiercely self-knowledgable “Sofia” (Brandi Mercedes Smith)—with aplomb. The show is directed by Kathy Tyree, who recently received the 2022 OEA Award for Best Director with her work on Ain’t Misbehavin’.
The story is so packed full of big themes (love, loss, abuse, sexuality, education, poverty) it is hard to give them all the full attention that they need in the theater’s timeframe. Specifically, the love affair between “Celie” and “Shug Avery” (Dara Hogan) felt glossed over in the couple of minutes given to the idea.
The Color Purple will run on the Hawks Mainstage Theatre through March 27 with performances Wednesdays through Sundays. Tickets start at $25, with prices varying by performance, and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, 6915 Cass St., Omaha, NE 68132; by phone at 402-553-0800; or online at omahaplayhouse.com.