This dazzling and buoyant musical (on Broadway from 2005-08), based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize–winning saga, charts an oppressed Southern black woman's struggle for empowerment during the 1930s. The whirlwind pace of the lengthy (two and a half hours) show — with book by Marsha Norman and songs by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray — crams in a lot of story. Director Michael Matthews has assembled a gifted creative team and a blisteringly talented cast of 17, all displaying powerful voices and unlimited enthusiasm while elevating Janet Roston's superb choreography, which is beautifully realized despite tight space constraints.
Cesili Williams as central character Celie provides the raw heart of the show; it's gratifying to watch her eventually take charge of her life. Matthews capitalizes on the intimate space, creating elegant staging and encouraging his cast to shatter the fourth wall.
The unabashedly sexy show mostly keeps the mood light, glossing over harrowing moments in Walker's story to emphasize the sweeter emotional scenes, and employing a sassy Greek chorus of gossipy church ladies as comic relief.
Hidden behind a wooden screen upstage, five musicians play honky-tonk, jazz, blues and African rhythms, as well as backing tender duets featuring heavenly harmonies. Naila Aladin Sanders has created stunning period costumes.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: March 9. Continues through May 26, 2012

LA Weekly