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Ruskin High School's The Color Purple Selected Reviews

Franni Young
Oak Park High School

Submitted for publication to KC Star Online


Respect. Hope. Celebration. All these words can be used to describe the outstanding performance of THE COLOR PURPLE, put on by Ruskin High School. Ruskin deals with dark themes of adversity and struggle and presents them with an engaging and heartbreaking show that keeps the audience engaged the entire time.

THE COLOR PURPLE is a musical adaptation of the 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker, along with the 1985 movie starring Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. With a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, the show opened on Broadway in 2005 and ran until 2008. The original production earned 11 Tony nominations in 2006, and the revival successfully won two Tony's, including Best Revival of a Musical in 2016.

The cast is one of the most phenomenal aspects of the show, balancing each other with emotion and tension. Nik�la Reed, playing the strong-willed Celie, brings a sense of maturity and grace with her heartfelt performance. She successfully executes the essence of a woman who has been through it all, and stuns with her incredible vocals. Reed uses her incredible belting skills to tell her truth through song and does it with ease. Her performance balances the likes of her two counterpart characters, Nettie (Kayla Addison), and Shug Avery (Anisa McGrone). Both Addison and McGrone add another layer to the production with their smooth voices and believable chemistry within their respective relationships with Celie. Other standouts in the main cast include Mister (Jerrell Dewberry), and Sofia (Olivia Wandick), who both excel in developing their characters' growth throughout the show and bring comic relief to some of the dark themes within the production.

The ensemble and supporting cast plays very well off of the of the leads, notably the three church ladies (Ashanti Brown, Lauren Taylor, Arkiah Collins), who take the spotlight with sass and narrate the show with superb vocals. Other cast members, such as DaVante Hudson and Ebony Robinson, command the stage with their energy and groove during big numbers.

Another entertaining aspect of the show is the costumes, done by Brittany Susano-Aguirre and Rah'yia Akbar. The outfits on every character stay true to the time period and create a simple, yet effective aesthetic. The makeup and hair compliment the costumes beautifully, enhancing the actor's expressions. Other technical elements, such as the smooth transitions and static set, improve the quality of the show and incorporate little details�such as increasing amounts of purple flowers�that keep the atmosphere of the production intact throughout.

With a stunning cast, captivating costumes, and a symbolic set, Ruskin puts on a show stopping performance of THE COLOR PURPLE. Their spectacular performance introduces the audience with themes such as sisterhood and love, and creates a profoundly honest production that is astounding in every way.

Andrew Plymell
Platte County High School

Submitted for publication to The Examiner of East Jackson County


Rickety chairs raised on wooden flats with a field of endless corn behind them welcomes you upon entry. Purple flowers adorn the stage, randomly appearing and creating vivid imagery. Taking you back to sweet fields of Georgia, the hopes and dreams of aspiring people sing richer than any plantation's worth. On this beautiful scene, one story of love and individuality begins to unfold. With a powerful voice, Ruskin High School tells the world "I'm Here" with their production of THE COLOR PURPLE.

THE COLOR PURPLE first began as a 1982 Alice Walker novel, a Pulitzer Prize winner for Drama. After a 1985 film, talks began for a Broadway show, based off the novel. Among others, Oprah Winfrey helped produce the highly Tony-nominated show, which ran for a total of 910 performances and a 2015 revival. The story centers around Celie, an African-American woman in 20th century Georgia. After abuse by her father, and later her husband, Celie strives to become her own voice. She searches for answers about her long-lost sister and attempts to find love in this gripping tale with gospel-like harmonies.

In Ruskin High School's production, Nik�la Reed stars as Celie. With her phenomenal vocals, she shows her powerful range with upbeat numbers to emotional melodies. Her character development is spectacular as she morphs from a sweet and innocent 14 year old to a strong-willed, confident, and courageous woman. Kayla Addison also shines in this eye-catching musical as Nettie, Celie's sister. Her passionate attempts to reach her sister show the value of sisterhood. With Reed, they create a sweet and hopeful atmosphere with their impassioned vocals, despite being oceans apart for a majority of the show.

Mister, played by Jerrell Dewberry, was equally captivating. Featuring a strong, demanding, and rude outlook, Dewberry keeps his character brimming with passion. Despite being viewed as the main antagonist of the show, Dewberry manages to hold his own, gaining laughs from the audience. Another show-stealer came from Olivia Wandick's performance of Sofia. With sass and a jazzy voice, Wandick struts away with plenty of laughs, garnered from her triumphant "Hell No!" Able to go from spirited to depressed and back again in the blink of an eye, Wandick portrays incredible character work and energy.

The show truly comes alive with all the tech pieces. The multilevel set design by Anthony Hernandez-Saldivar is outstanding. The innovative ability to remove chairs off the wooden backgrounds greatly enhances the show, giving it flavor and spunk. In addition, the props design, overseen by Jessica Valdez, Tami Stiglets, Jerrell Dewberry, and Jamillah Pauley-Bey, is striking and fits easily to the time period. Featuring a white conch horn, African quilts, and unique violet lilies, the props team outdoes itself. Despite some minor microphone issues, the cast and crew make this sweet and enthralling tale a success.

Upon the last scene in the show, the emotional reunion brings everything full circle, as the violet flowers now adorn the stage. The lights dim, a purple sunset off on the horizon. Victorious, the cast sings the titular song, in a final scene almost "too beautiful for words."

Samantha Lambert
Grandview High School

Submitted for publication to The Pitch


Ruskin High School will bring tears to your eyes this season. A heartbreaking story meets gorgeous vocals for a wonderful show in THE COLOR PURPLE!

THE COLOR PURPLE is a musical adaptation of the novel of the same name by Alice Walker. The show is composed by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray, with the book by Marsha Norman. The musical premiered in 2004 and hit Broadway in 2005. It follows Celie, a young woman in the early 1900s, as she struggles with abuse and disdain from her father and her husband. As years pass, Celie learns confidence through her relationship with another woman, Shug Avery. The two move in together and reconcile with their pasts, displaying characteristics of strength and resilience that makes them icons for years to come.

Nikela Reed (Celie) brings life to the show as the fierce lead, showing that courage can be found in even the darkest of places. Her beautiful voice tells stories of love and mourning, shocking the audience into enthusiastic cheers, most memorably in the musical number "I'm Here". Reed has vivid facial expressions that truly set the tone of every scene she is featured in. There is nary a moment when the energy Reed brings to the stage drops. Jerrell Dewberry (Mister) offers inconceivable amounts of emotion accompanied by humor, a crowd-pleaser even as the antagonist. Dewberry has strong and clear vocals, carrying his fervor to every audience member.

Anisa McGrone (Shug Avery) captures the essence of her character with rich vocals and sharp tones, emotion overflowing in every note. She quite clearly carries herself with confidence, suiting her character wonderfully. Ayinde Jones (Harpo) perfectly portrays the uncertain husband of freshman Olivia Wandick (Sofia). Wandick brings sass to her character, as well as to the show as a whole. Her singing and speaking is smooth and humorous, inciting the most laughs of any character.

The musical is made whole by the memorable lighting (operated by Sydney Hinkle, Jacob Godfrey, Chase Griffith, and Tremaund Moore). Spotlights are cast with precision, and the passage of time or change of locations is emphasized by the gradients of stage lights. The beautiful backdrop is back-lit, representing the sun shining on a hopeful day, and cloud cover on a desolate day. Costumes (designed by Brittany Susano-Aguirre and Rha'yia Akbar) are well-executed and period appropriate, doing well to set the scene.

As is common with a high school production, there are some technical difficulties with sound, microphones in particular. However, actors make up for this by continuing with the scene, never acknowledging the distracting feedback from the sound system. In ensemble numbers, it is clear that some actors are not certain of the choreography and energy dips, but it is quickly rescued by vocals and lead characters.

A thoroughly enjoyable night out, THE COLOR PURPLE leaves audiences with a sense of hope for the future and a tear in every eye. Well done, Ruskin High School!

About the Author

Rackers, Brad

Rackers, Brad

Chair - FY20 Season


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