Featured cast members for the Henegar Center’s production of ‘The Color Purple: The Musical.’ Photo by Dana Niemeier.
By PAM HARBAUGH
It’s been a weepy joyous 10 week period at the Henegar Center.
The catalyst? Thrilling rehearsals and high expectations for “The Color Purple: The Musical.”
Director Hank Rion says neither he nor the 28 cast members can make it through a rehearsal without feeling emotionally spent.
“The subject matter you’re delving into is so emotionally charged that you end up exhausted,” he says. “But it’s also a musical, so it’s heightened. And there are humorous moment. It all shows the power of how people can overcome adversity and learn to love themselves.”Of course, the story comes from Alice Walker’s celebrated book which was turned into the award winning 1985 Steven Spielberg movie. It revolves around the brutal, abuse-filled life of a young African American girl named Celie, Through an unexpected alliance with a woman named Shug, Celie eventually learns to love herself and grows into a proud, confident woman.
Mr. Rion at first thought “they had to be out of their mind” to turn this story into a musical. But when he saw it on Broadway, he was determined to produce it himself one day.
The key to producing it has been to tap into the deep talents of Brevard’s African American community. The door opened last year when he produced “Ain’t Misbehavin’ “ to sold-out audiences.
For “Color Purple,” nearly 50 people turned out to audition. The cast, he says, is “ferocious.”
“When you hear them sing together, it’s going to be like nothing you’ve ever heard,” he says. “When you hear all the gospels, it gives you goosebumps.”
Already, people are buying tickets to the show. And, there have been inquiries from Orlando and Tampa.
By the way, the photos here were taken by theater photographer extraordinaire Dana Niemeier. She and Mr. Rion decided to make the publicity photos feel like they were from 1911, which is the year the story begins. They were taken at the Green Gables Preservation Project. The idea was to tell the cast not to smile so that the photo would appear more like old tintypes.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “The Color Purple: The Musical” performs Jan. 23 to Feb. 8 at the Henegar Center for the Arts, 625 E. New Haven Ave., Melbourne. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. If demand is there, additional Thursdays or even an extra weekend will be added. Tickets are $26 general, $23 seniors and military, $16 students and upper balcony. Discounts for groups of 15 or more. Service fees may apply. Call 321-723-8698 or visit www.Henegar.org.