“Like the color purple, where do it come from? Now my eyes are open – look what God has done.”
An epic tale of a 40 years in the life of a family in rural Georgia unfolds tomorrow with the opening of The Color Purple at Players by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach. Based on the 1982 novel by Alice Walker, the heart of the story centers around 14-year old Celie, who is separated from all that she loves when she is forced by her abusive father to marry a cruel farmer called “Mister” played by Eugene Lindsey.
Under the direction of Jereme Karey KirkpatrickRaickett, Celie played by Jamie King overcomes the odds and finds her voice and strength as she comes into her own. “I approached this piece with a specific approach to vividly taking you through every moment of Celie’s journey. Take every beat of the show and highlighting every weakness and every strength,” he says. “Accomplishing all of these aspects through blocking, set design, lighting and powerful performances from cast and musicians.
Young Celie is portrayed by 8-year-old Amara Powell, who is the daughter of Felecia Ewing and a member of Historic Mt. ZION AME church, where her grandfather, Pearce Ewing Sr. is the Pastor. She has landed roles in TCP at Stage Aurora and A Mother’s Day revue at the Amelia Musical Playhouse.
The cast also includes Rashawnda Foster as Nettie, Mia Wheeler as Young Nettie, A.C. Ingram as Pa, Ju’Quan Vickers as Harpo, Jazz Zamor as Sofia, Kristal Stallings as Shug Avery, Marc Curtis Little as Ol’ Mister, Marinette Gomez as Squeak and Marquia Presley, Michelle C. Grant, Toni Diamond-Bingham as the Church Ladies.
Raickett took great care to preserve the integrity of the characters as framed in Walkers’ Pulitzer Prize winning novel and later, the Spielberg-directed film when bringing his interpretation to the stage. “They are two different platforms telling the same story,” he says. “The musical embraces the sounds of the period to tell the story.”
Music Director Meachum Clarke leads a powerful ensemble through the production’s uplifting score with an incredible chorus of voices celebrating the healing power of love and the value of embracing each day lived. “The music is the guiding force in the telling of the story in this presentation.,” says Raickett.”
The ensemble is a testament to the broad spectrum of voices in the community from all walks of life. Di’Erra Harris, Melissa P. Case, Tamia Brinkley, Assata Davis, Cameron Thomas, Arielle Bryant, Nikki Janae, Chae Clements, Toni Wortherly, Joycelyn Petty, Devonte Harvey, Amari Dyson, Clayton Riddley, Aiden Jones, Sam Brown, Darnell Bennett, Jzavon Garneaux, Theo Canty, David James, Christian Bella Grier, Amara Powell, Mia Wheeler.
“Currently strong African American women are positively affecting the social/political climate,” says Raickett. “The Color Purple story reflects both the growth of how far we have come and how far there is left to go.
Cameron Thomas is a student at the Douglas Anderson School of the Arts majoring in Musical Theatre and Dance. She served the dance captain for such productions as “In The Heights,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and “Young Frankenstein” in which she also appeared as Elizabeth and in “The Lion King, Jr.” as Rafiki. Thomas has been dancing since the age of three and has received numerous national awards and scholarships. She has trained at the Joffrey School in NYC and is part of two local dance companies.
Amari Dyson is a rising junior at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts. “The Color Purple” is her second show at Players by the Sea. Her other roles include Nala in “The Lion King,” Zebulon’s Wife in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” and By My Side in “Godspell.”
A singer and songwriter born and raised in Jacksonville, Melissa Case has been performing since the age of three. The wife and mother of two boys is described as a bright and colorful personality who comes alive when she hits the stage.
Toni Wortherly is the author of Pray While You’re Prey, is a songwriter, educator and worship leader. She’s been performing since 1993 and appeared in “Dreamgirls” at The Alhambra and a cameo in Fletcher High’s “Footloose.” Wortherly is excited to return to the stage as a part of the first show she ever saw on Broadway.
At its core, “The Color Purple” is about the resilience of the human spirit and it’s a message that Raickett and the rest of the cast hopes to impart on audiences. “I pray that our audiences will be able to take with them a new perspective of a common issue that we can relate to on many levels,” he says. “I hope that are able to look deeper within themselves and find the beauty they never knew existed. The forgiveness they’ve always held onto. The beauty to know that we are still here.”