A successful formula In The Color Purple SA

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The Color Purple returns to the Nelson Mandela Stage at the Joburg Theatre Complex in August.
The Color Purple returns to the Nelson Mandela Stage at the Joburg Theatre Complex in August.

The Color Purple’s local success became hot international news; it will re-open at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre on August 7 and will run until September 2.

Almost five years ago, then Chief Executive Officer and Executive Producer at Joburg Theatre, Bernard Jay, decided to embark on a journey to bring the musical The Color Purple to South Africa.

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Jay believed that this musical – based on Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel – would resonate with audiences in South Africa and he was determined to put together a world class all-South African creative team and cast to bring his dream to fruition.

Two years ago, current CEO of Joburg Theatre, Xoliswa Nduneni-Ngema, agreed to commit the theatre to partner with now independent theatre producer Bernard Jay to bring The Color Purple to the stage of The Nelson Mandela Theatre at Joburg Theatre.

On February 4 2018, The Color Purple officially opened to overwhelming critical and public acclaim. In an economic climate where theatre has to compete more now than in recent history for the scarcely available ‘leisure rand’ and regular theatregoing audiences have declined steadily due to such economic factors, the producers are delighted to report that the recent production of The Color Purple managed to buck the trend, playing to full houses in the final two weeks of its four-week season and well exceeding its original forecast of ticketing revenue.

“We have been thrilled by the extraordinary welcome given to our production of The Color Purple by the public and media alike,” enthuses Joburg Theatre’s Nduneni-Ngema. “The citizens of Joburg have taken this wonderful show to their hearts and, even most excitingly, the women in our audiences have joyously embraced its underlying themes of gender empowerment and equality”.

Audiences were empowered, inspired and moved by this story of young Celie, who overcomes and eventually rises above her many adversities, through the help and support of three other women in her life. ‘Look Who’s Wearing The Pants Now!’’, sings young star Didintle Khunou every night towards the finale of The Color Purple on The Mandela stage. And at every performance, without fail, the Joburg audiences stood in unison, cheered, cried and shared Celie’s triumph and joy.

But its local success soon became hot international news. Almost without prior announcement, the show’s legendary co-composer / lyricists, Brenda Russell, Allee Willis and Stephen Bray, decided to fly in from the States to see two performances of director Janice Honeyman’s already celebrated production of their musical and raved to the cast and creative team, using adjectives such as ‘best’, ‘brilliant’ and ‘unique’ in their praise.

Major theatre producers and presenters arrived from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China and the United States to see for themselves ‘what the fuss was all about’ and started negotiations with Jay for the all-South African production to begin an international tour in 2019.

So what was the fuss all about it and how did this production of The Color Purple buck the trend? In an article in the Financial Mail written recently by Christina Kennedy, executive producer Bernard Jay attributes the success to two major factors: “The Color Purple offers a universal coming together of trust in the future – there is still hope for everyone. But also the musical The Color Purple is brilliantly crafted by its writers as sheer theatrical entertainment. With these two parallel factors, choosing this show for South African audiences became a ‘no-brainer’”.

Through genuine public demand, The Color Purple will re-open at The Mandela at Joburg Theatre on August 7 2018 and will run until September 2.

To secure your tickets now before it’s sold out again, you can call 0861 670 670, go online at www.joburgtheatre.com or book in person at the Joburg Theatre box office. Theatre patrons can also book online and pay at selected Pick n Pay stores.

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