Essential Theatre premieres ‘The Color Purple’


Tables covered in purple cloths adorned with vases and flowers lining the walls set the scene as a bright red carpet led guests to Friday’s sold-out premiere of “The Color Purple.”

The stage adaptation by Marsha Norman was based upon Alice Walker’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel and the movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

Charlie Toomer conducted the production’s live music while James Harkness, who performed on the original Broadway production for “The Color Purple,” choreographed dance numbers.

The story is set in rural Georgia in the early 1900s and follows Celie, an African-American woman who has struggled with love her entire life, and her eventual acceptance, transformation and recovery from multiple traumatic experiences.

Luther Wells, director of the musical, said it was “essential” to bring the production to Florida A&M and the Tallahassee community once Broadway allowed other venues to perform it. Wells hoped the audience had a wonderful experience and understood the play’s message once the curtains closed.

“It’s all about love,” Wells said. “It’s all about finding love in one’s self.”

He was also impressed with the red carpet premiere, which included a reception after the production ended. He said it added an extra level of excitement to the event. Wells said he enjoyed working with the diverse cast, which comprised FAMU alumni, Leon County elementary and middle school students and college students throughout Tallahassee.

Marci Duncan, a FAMU theater professor, was one of the masterminds behind the red carpet portion of the premiere. She said the event exceeded her expectations despite the fact it was difficult to create the red carpet atmosphere.

“This is very exciting and very fun,” she said. “It’s hard because our theater is inside a hall that has classrooms. It’s hard to create a theatrical atmosphere without a lobby.”

Duncan also said she wants to “amp up everything” for future opening nights to encourage more attendees and Essential Theatre subscribers.

Lillian Tate and Mary Wells, two guests who arrived together, enjoyed the red carpet experience that included photographers and video interviews. They could not stop smiling after their pictures were taken. 12