[Eben K. Logan as Celie (from left), Gilbert Domally as Harpo, and Melvin Abston as Mister are in a scene from "The Color Purple" at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace.]
When it comes to showing raw emotion, Eben K. Logan as Celie is outstanding. As the show starts, it’s 1911 in Georgia, and a 14-year-old Celie is clearly pregnant with a second child, both reportedly with Celie’s “Pa” (played with stern menace by Sean Blake) as the father.
Celie’s love for – and desire to protect – her younger sister Nettie (Kyrie Courter), who wants to be a teacher, is genuine. “Our Prayer” is a beautiful duet for the two that shows the never-ending connection between them.
Enter “Mister” (Melvin Abston), a mean taskmaster with a whip who’s considerably older than Celie. Mister tells Pa that he wants to marry Nettie, but that won’t fly; Pa offers Celie, but Mister says she’s too ugly, and that he’d sooner buy Pa’s cow. Pa says if Mister takes Celie, he’ll throw in the cow for free.
The end result: Celie in yet another horrible living situation. The men that work for Mister warn her in the song “Big Dog” that “if you think hard work been doggin’ you before, get ready for the big dog!” Mister won’t let Celie see Nettie or even let her check the mailbox, leading Celie to believe that her sister must be dead since Nettie had promised to send letters regularly.
Mister’s only soft spot is for an ex-flame, a sultry bisexual singer named Shug Avery (played to perfection by Sydney Charles), who Mister’s stern father, “Ol’ Mister” (Lorenzo Rush Jr.), prevented him from pursuing years earlier. Mister, meanwhile, objects to the woman Mister’s son, Harpo (Gilbert Domally), has fallen for, impregnated, and married – Sofia (Nicole Michelle Haskins), a strong, loving woman whose Act I song, “Hell No!,” shows how she won’t put up with any disrespect or abuse.