The Epic Tale of The Color Purple Returns to Philadelphia
When people enter the world of The Color Purple they immediate see that they are embarking on a remarkable, emotion-filled journey.
The Color Purple celebrates the healing power of love and the importance of a zest for life, and its themes of empowerment for women are still relevant today.
The epic tale of 40-years in the life of a family in rural Georgia, began as a Pulitzer-Prize-Winning novel by Alice Walker, that had such enduring power that it was made into a riveting film, and later, a Broadway musical.
At its center of The Color Purple is 14-year-old Celie. When Celie is forced by her abusive father to give up her infant son and daughter, and marry a cruel farmer, called “Mister,” she is separated from all that she loves, including her beloved sister, Nettie. Ultimately, Celie conquers the odds to find her voice and her strength, coming into her own.
The 1985 movie of the same name directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Oprah Winfrey as Sofia, the Tony-Award-winning musical returns to Philadelphia’s Forest Theatre, from Tuesday, Dec. 12 through Sunday, Dec. 17.
This is part of the Broadway Philadelphia series, presented by the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and The Shubert Organization.
“We are excited for Philadelphia theater fans to experience the return of this Tony award-winning musical,” said Anne Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center. “Anyone who has enjoyed Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, or the popular film, will want to see this powerful and poignant stage production at the beautiful Forrest Theatre.”
The revival of The Color Purple opened to great acclaim in summer 2013 at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory, followed by a Broadway engagement that began on November 10, 2015.
The Color Purple went on to win two 2016 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical. The Color Purple played 483 performances on Broadway, closing on January 8, 2017.
The Color Purple, now on its North American Tour, has themes that are still relevant in today’s world, including domestic violence, sexual abuse & harassment, brutality, and the strength we have inside of us to overcome insurmountable odds.
Several of the members of this talented cast also starred in the recent Broadway revival, and Carrie Compere, from Trenton, N.J., plays the role of Sofia.
Compere’s credits include: The ensemble in Holler If You Hear Me. Off-Broadway: The Lightning Thief: Percy Jackson, Sistas the Musical. The national Tour of Shrek the Musical (Dragon). The regional tour of Golden Apple, and Smokey Joe’s Cafe. On television, Seven Seconds (FOX/Netflix), NYC 22 (CBS), “Gurland on Gurland” (CBS/Showtime).
What do you love about the experience of The Color Purple?
CARRIE COMPERE: There is so much that I love and appreciate about it. I love our cast and company; they are a great group of people to work with. We are really a family out here on the road.
What about the show itself?
CC: This is a beautiful show. The story is not an easy story to tell, because of some of the scenes in it. What is so worth it to me, is that we are able to show what happens on the other end of the story.
CC: Such as the self-value, self-worth, love, and reconciliation. We also get to tell it in a way that is simpler for a Broadway musical, that is so clear and so grounded.
I would say that Sofia is a pretty complex character, so, how did you initially approach her?
CC: On Broadway I understudied the role, from Danielle Brooks from Orange is the New Black. Being on tour with the show now has given me the opportunity to break it down to get to the foundation of who she is and to build from there.
Where did you start?
CC: She became pregnant as a teenager and she and Harpo are in love. She is going through some adult things at a very young age, which a lot of the other girls in the show are. In the very next scene she is violated and everything she puts her trust in crumbles before her – so she goes through that emotional arc very quickly.
What do you admire about your character Sofia?
CC: She is definitely a strong woman, yet at the same time she’s both defiant, and vulnerable. She is a loving person. She wants to love and be loved. She knows how to fight, and it’s what she has seen in her home, and she finds a way to fight for love in a way. Her final fight is when she is brutalized by police officers and she has to find a way to love and trust again. There is clear ebb and flow and ups and downs for my character. There is a resolve between she and her husband Harpo because there is a sense of hope in that.
How familiar were you with the book and the movie?
CC: Extremely. I read the book the first time when I was in high school and I saw the movie when it first came out and many times after that. So, to have the opportunity to be part of this production is extraordinary for me.
What about the show?
CC: I had seen the original Broadway tour about seven years ago. When I it on stage I said, ‘If I ever got a chance to be part of this production I would definitely do it.’ I said that while never knowing I’d have this opportunity. Playing Sofia is a dream come true for me. I loved that the iconic Oprah Winfrey played this part in the movie, too.How do you keep the show fresh after doing it for so many months?
CC: There are people who saw us on Broadway several times and they are coming back to see the tour several times.
What do they say to you when you meet them?
CC: They say ‘Every time I come I see something different.’ They see the show through a different lens or a different perspective, because it’s such a strong and beautiful story and it resonates with human beings. It’s such a grounded story. So, they love to come back and see it, it’s largely due to the fact they are able to reconcile something in themselves – something that needs forgiveness.
What else do you and the audience members see?
CC: That it’s about being conscious of your physical presence on this earth, and connecting with other people. It’s the connectivity – the human to human connection, which I think is awesome.
What do you love about the touring aspect of the show?
CC: When I was growing up in Trenton we didn’t go to Broadway shows, and I wasn’t exposed to this kind of culture. To know we are able to go to different cities and bring it to people who wouldn’t have a chance to see a show like this on the Broadway stage is so rewarding. I’ve met so many people, who say ‘I couldn’t afford to get to New York, now you are in my city and I can see it,’ that’s a great thing as well.
When did you first fall in love with theater or musical theater?
CC: I have always been in love with music and acting. But when I was younger I never thought I would have an opportunity to be in productions like this.
Please tell me your acting history.
CC: My husband and I moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for a while and I got involved in community theater. My husband is awesome because he encouraged me to go for it. For a while I was commuting between Oklahoma and New York.
Which definitely worked out for you.
CC: Well, Shrek the Musical was my first real job in the theater business. I was on tour for 14 months, then I flew to London where I recorded a brand-new song for the tour called Forever, that was sung by dragon, donkey and Shrek. I came off the road and thought I was going to be able to book the next tour right away, but it took a while.
So, how is your career working out?
CC: I’ve done two Broadway shows, TV, and commercials – so I feel extremely blessed that I am happy, that I went for it. This industry and this work is not easy, but it’s so worth it. I am more than glad I pursued it.
You previously-mentioned your husband, please tell me more about him
CC: My husband is pianist Jerry Compere. We have been married 18 years; it will be 19 years in March. We have two wonderful children; an 18-year-old son who is a college freshman and a 16-year-old daughter, who is a junior in high school.
Do you and your pianist husband help each other through the rough patches?
CC: We anchor each other. He is such a huge support for me and I for him and with us getting married and having a family at a young age. Pay bills and taking care of family. Left college. We’ve been able to get though the rough spots and it’s been a journey and it’s a forever journey.
How do you tour the country while a husband and teenage daughter at home?
CC: We have out moments. It is difficult sometimes because I am away from my family and I love them so much. But my kids grew up with me auditioning and going back and forth to New York. While I am on the road with The Color Purple it’s vital to have them come out and see me for me to get home. We make it work. I need to be there for my teenage daughter, so we talk on the phone a lot, and we Skype a lot. Both of my children keep me abreast about everything in their lives. We stay well connected.Do you think either one of your children will want to follow in your footsteps?
CC: Oh, yes. My son has his sights on being a film director and my daughter wants to go into musical theater. They are both very much into the arts.
Do you know much about the city of Philadelphia?
CC: I do. I was raised in Trenton, so Philadelphia has always been my neighbor. I recently performed in the Thanksgiving Day Parade and it was awesome.
What do you want for your future?
CC: I want to continue to do what I love to do – on stage, on TV or in film, I am absolutely open to all of that. I want to continue to tell these awesome stories and to portray these beautiful characters and be as honest and truthful as I can and I want people to love it, and hopefully they will.
What advice do you have to offer on navigating aspiring performers about difficult career you are pursing?
CC: Make sure that you love it and make sure it’s like the air that you breath. Work on your craft and never stop learning it, whether its dancing, singing, etc. You have to be totally committed if you are going to find any measure of success, which means different things for different people.
Lastly, why should people come to see The Color Purple?
CC: It is a story about life, love, forgiveness, and hope in desperate times. So, many people can relate to where we are in this country. No matter what color, religion or background will be able to relate and find themselves and come out rejoicing as most people do.