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Toby’s Dinner Theatre The Color Purple

By • Sep 22nd, 2012 • Category: Reviews
The Color Purple
Toby’s Dinner Theatre
Toby’s Dinner Theatre, Columbia, MD
Through November 11th
2:30 with intermission
$49-$54/$36 Children
Reviewed September 16th, 2012

In The Color Purple, Toby’s Dinner of Theatre of Columbia takes you back to rural Georgia not long after the beginning of the 20th Century. There we find an African-American community that is barely a generation outside of slavery and all the trials and tribulations that haunt the members that they seek to define themselves as independent individuals. Even beyond the off-stage racial conflict, there is a distinct conflict among themselves and especially as men and women work to define gender roles. Through it all, there is hope and a sense of what will eventually come to be. There is family; there is love. There are glimmers of and an ultimate promise of the deliverance of this community and the fruition of their hard work and dreams. We see the heart and the bonds, of choice not obligation, that ultimately makes the African-American community strong.

At the center of everything is Celie (Dayna Quincy). Celie journeys from a young girl to an old woman. She progresses from a damaged child abused by her stepfather to a beaten woman silenced by her husband to an independent, creative force who makes her own future. Quincy is absolute gem as Celie. Between her amazing performance and excellent costumes and make-up, she is believable at every age and stage in her life. Quincy has real heart that breaks down the audience and real fire that lifts them up.

Everything that Celie does, she does for her younger sister, Nettie, played with an innocent air of grace by Jessica Coleman. Coleman performs with perseverance even as her microphone was having issues during one of her biggest moments. Celie is separated from her sister by her controlling and abusive husband, Mister (Mark Anthony Hall). Hall is deliciously evil as a villain and then makes a remarkable transformation that makes you want to forgive him for all his sins.

Quite an opposite couple are the amiable Harpo (David Little) and the larger-than-life Sofia (Theresa Cunningham). Little sizzles in “Brown Betty” and gets to show off his sultry lower register and slick dance moves. Cunningham is dynamite. Her comedic timing and delivery is spot-on, and she breaks your heart during her rough times.

Then, there is the woman who walks in and changes everything: Shug (Shayla Simmons). Simmons may very well be the classiest woman to ever step foot on a stage. Everything about her is polished, charming, and high-class. She just exudes elegance, and it is no wonder that she has the rest of the characters awestruck.

The supporting cast and ensemble are equally strong. Ray Hatch stands out as Ol’ Mister in a serious scene that reveals a lot of Mister’s backstory. Darlene (Crystal Freeman), Doris (Tierra Strickland), and Jarene (Kelli Blackwell) provide humorous gossipy, church-lady commentary throughout in the form of an almost recitative fugue. Their little interjections are highly complex musically and yet they make it seem spontaneous at the same time as polished.

The Color Purple is a first-class production. Everything about it is done with professionalism and style. There is an intense precision and planning throughout that translates into something subtle and beautiful. Fans of the book and/or movie will not be disappointed with this new reimagining of an old classic.

Cast

  • Young Celie/Celie: Dayna Quincy
  • Young Nettie/Nettie: Jessica Coleman
  • Church Soloist: Melissa Victor
  • Darlene: Crystal Freeman
  • Doris: Tierra Strickland
  • Jarene: Kelli Blackwell
  • Pa: Devron Young
  • Preacher/Buster/Chief: Tobias Young
  • Mister: Mark Anthony Hall
  • Harpo: David Little
  • Sofia: Theresa Cunningham
  • Squeak: Ashley Johnson
  • Shug: Shayla Simmons
  • Ol’ Mister: Ray Hatch
  • Young Adam: Antonio Beverly
  • Young Olivia: Olivia Ashley Reed
  • Bobby: Sayne-Khayri Lewis
  • Guard: Anwar Thomas
  • Grady: David Gregory
  • Ensemble: Antonio Beverly, David Gregory, Sayne-Khayri Lewis, Nurney Mason, Samantha McEwen, Olivia Ashley Reed, Patricia Targete, Anwar Thomas
  • Understudies: Melissa Victor (Celie/Squeak), Shayla Maddox (Shug/Darlene), David Gregory (Mister/Harpo/Pa), Tierra Strickland (Sofia), Ashley Olivia Reed (Nettie), Devron Young (Preacher/Ol’ Mister), Ashley Johnson (Church Soloist), Samantha McEwen (Jarene/Doris), Sola Fadiran (Swing)

Production Staff

  • Directors: Toby Orenstein, Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Musical Director: Christopher Youstra
  • Choreographer: Anwar Thomas
  • Scenic Designer: David A. Hopkins
  • Costume Designer: Lawrence B. Munsey
  • Lighting Designer: Lynn Joslin
  • Sound Designer: Drew Dedrick
  • Production Manager: Vickie S. Johnson
  • Production Stage Manager: Kate Wackerle
  • Stage Managers: Drew Dedrick, Kate Wacherle
  • Technical Director: Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Master Carpenter: David A. Hopkins
  • Set Construction: Corey Brown, David A. Hopkins, Sarah Splaine, Russell Sunday
  • Properties & Set Dressing: Amy Kaplan
  • Light Board Operators: Coleen M. Foley, Erin MacDonald
  • Sound Operators: Drew Dedrick, Jimmy Engelkemier
  • Stage Crew: Laura Blasi, Jason Britt, Erin MacDonald

Orchestra

  • Conductor/Piano: Christopher Youstra or Douglas Lawler
  • Keyboard 2: Anne Prizzi or Pam Wilt
  • Flute, Clarinet, Alto Sax: Charlene McDaniels or Steven Haaser
  • Trumpet: Tony Neenan, S Craig Taylor, or Frank Gorecki
  • Guitar: Kim Spath, Greg Land, or Will Brumbach
  • Percussion: Aaron Holmes or Jack Loercher

Disclaimer: Toby’s Dinner Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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has been involved in theatre in the state of Maryland and DC for most of her life. She has acted, directed, choreographed, stage managed, and held a million other odd jobs. She has a B.S. in English from Towson University, and is currently pursuing her Master's Degree to become a Reading Specialist. She is a Maryland State Certified English, Theatre, Elementary, and Mathematics Educator. After teaching English and Drama for many years, she now teaches 6th grade Language Arts at Magnolia Middle School in Harford County, Maryland. She wrote the curriculum currently used in Prince George’s County Public Schools for Drama I and Drama II. She now writes and directs plays and musicals for use in church.

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