Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel was first adapted into a musical by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis in 2005 and enjoyed a celebrated run on Broadway.
Following an acclaimed production at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory in 2013, the show received a revival on the Great White Way and once again had critics in raptures about its heart breaking story and sensational score.
There have been rumours of a West End production looming, but so far nothing has materialised. Instead, producer Danielle Tarento decided to present a charity gala concert version of the show at Cadogan Hall last night and with a cast of West End stage stars, the musical really took flight.
The show was led by Marisha Wallace, who is currently alternating with Amber Riley in Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre and after this performance, I’m sure a few more people will be booking tickets to see her. The American singer displayed an amazing ability to extract every ounce of emotion from the sensitive lyrics and her powerful, yet resonant vocals filled the cavernous auditorium with ease. Her rendition of “I’m here” resulted in a spontaneous standing ovation.
She was matched by rising star Seyi Omooba as her sister Nettie who also captured the very heart of her character, despite performing in a stationary position throughout.
Rachel John, exhibited rock star quality as Shug Avery and Tyrone Huntley was excellent as the ever optimistic Harpo. Wendy Mae Brown’s raucous Sophia added some comedy to proceedings, while Cavin Cornwall was delightfully detestable as Celie’s abusive husband.
A concert version can never evoke the same range of emotions as a full show, but with sensational individual performances this came close.
The British Theatre Academy presented the charity gala to raise money for young performers who cannot afford to train in performing arts and seeing so many in the gospel choir exuberantly entertaining the sold out audience really brought home how important the funding is.
This story of a young girl who somehow manages to triumph despite huge adversity is still so relevant and definitely deserves another London run.
Photos by Scott Rylander