Broadway Reviews: Color Purple and a revisit to Hamilton

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Color Purple 

Official DescriptionOscar®, Golden Globe® and Grammy® winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) has dazzled the world with her matchless talent. This fall, she makes her long-awaited Broadway debut as the sultry Shug Avery in the joyous and triumphant musical The Color Purple. This unforgettable and intensely moving new production mesmerized audiences when it premiered at London’s acclaimed Menier Chocolate Factory, where critics hailed it as “a revelation” (Mark Shenton, The Stage). Now, this American classic comes to Broadway with a powerhouse cast including celebrated London star Cynthia Erivo, who will recreate her electrifying performance as Celie, along with “Orange is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks.
With a soul-raising score of jazz, gospel, ragtime and blues, The Color Purple gives an exhilarating new spirit to this Pulitzer Prize-winning story.
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My Take: I have to say I walked in this show with a little trepidation. I wasn’t really looking forward that much to seeing it, but it’s January, there’s little new to see on the great white way and it was JHud so why not? Oh what a surprise I got. I left a preaching convert wanting to be In a gospel church singing praise and hallelujah! No seriously I really enjoyed the Show. I cried, I laughed and I left all warm inside. I walked in thinking Jennifer Hudson was going to be the best of the show but I was wrong. Yes, she is good, really God and of course her voice is to die for but she is so not the star of this show.In some instances she is even showing her greenness on the stage, as her live inexperience peaked through at points. The star of this show is Cynthia Erivo as Celie, she is spectacular. Her performance is subdued but mesmerizing and she keeps building up to an amazing 11 o’clock number that brought the house down. The house was one of my favorite things too. Is this the best show I’ve seen, no, but from the audience you would think that it is. I love an engaged audience and here people were feeling it. Such love and appreciation that must be amazing to feel onstage. The third thing I loved – John Boyle. He is a true brilliance and his minimalist take on the color purple hits the mark – the set is simple but beautiful! (you get some views from the set in the videos below from their website)
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Hamilton (Second viewing)
Because I am obsessed with Hamilton I went to see it again this weekend. I would usually not do a review of a show I’ve already seen and reviewed but Hamilton is different. One, it’s a work of art that sustains multiple viewings and two, it was such a different experience this time that it requires it’s own follow up.
First I actually got two understudies in my show, Lin Manuel was sick so the understudy Jon Cera replaced him and Phillipa Soo was in vacation so her understudy Carleigh Bettiol played Elizabeth. Although some people might have found this unlucky, I didn’t mind because I had already seen them with those two, and it gave me a chance to see the show as a piece and not about its stars. Oh and how well it still holds up on its own.
I’m obsessed with the cast album and it was so beautifully seeing it again being familiar with the story and having a full understanding of the lyrics . That, and sitting in the first row of the mezzanine gave me a completely different experience. The first time I was very focused on the lead performances, and really concentrated in getting all the nuance of the lyrics, as well as being quite upclose, so i got the characters in my face but not the full view of the stage. This time however I laid back and thoroughly enjoyed the ballet that is the staging and choreography of the show. There is so much going on all over the stage that I really had not captured on first watching.
The only problem of the understudies: Carleigh Bettiol does not hold a candle to phillipa soo. I remember the first time I saw it I wasn’t really super impressed with her I though she has a great voice and did a beautiful job but I wasn’t blow away. That was until I saw the show without her. She makes what she does look so easy it goes unnoticed yet her understudy was having a hell of a time with her songs. They are difficult things and Soo’s ease in her delivery made me be really impressed with her in hindsight.
On second watching some of my favorite performances remain: Daveed Diggs as Jefferson and Lafayette is still soo good. In the NYmag article he says about the character: ” My goal is you fall in love with him, then you feel really shitty that you did that. Because that’s part of what made him so successful” oh how its true in the show. Jonathan Groff kills it as King George, every time. The times he is on stage are probably my favorite, and definitely the ones the audience laughs at the most. I also have a new obsession with Renee Goldsberry as Angelica. her voice is amazing and actually one of my favorite songs to listen to in the album is the hopeless/satisfied combination and it was a pleasure to be reminded how powerful the staging on these numbers are. The time rewinds and Angelica’s presence is spectacular. I also have a much greater admiration (or complete awe) for the brilliance of Leslie Odom Jr as Burr. He is a star every time he is onstage and his voice just keeps growing and growing on me. The song he sings, Wait for it, is objectively for me the best song of the show (not the best staging but best song for sure) and his voice in it is beautiful.
A new Discovery: Anthony Ramos. The first time I saw it he was out and I saw his understudy, who was quite ok, but this guy has stage presence. loved his take!
I found one flaw with Hamilton (there had to be one but its so minor it’s not even important)  First act is so much stronger than the second act. I didn’t realize this as much on first viewing but in the second and with the multiple listens of the cast album I’m definitely getting much more play of the act 1 songs. Act 2 really stands mostly in the context of watching it live and it’s just not as powerful musically in my book.
As it it also Alexander Hamilton’s birthday week some cool articles that have come out on the show:
As an additional bonus, some of my favorite Ham4Ham I have not posted about (as you can see many here )
 
 

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