We chat to Me'sha Bryan about playing the courageous Celie in The Color Purple The Musical, coming to our Donald Gordon Theatre for the first time this October.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, this landmark musical celebrates life, love and the strength to stand up for who you are and what you believe in.
How do you feel about joining The Color Purple as Celie?
My Mom is so happy; she's telling everyone at the nail bar, ha ha! The Color Purple is one of those iconic stories that everyone knows. Anyone who has found out that I’m playing Celie reacts with “Oh wow, that’s fantastic. Isn’t that the one with Whoopi Goldberg?” and all the other characters and their personal connections to the story start flooding out.
What does Celie mean to you as a character?
Celie is a positive beacon for hope. She is one of those people who doesn’t realise how important she is to everyone around her. She’s like the glue that brings everybody together and is the centre of the community without even knowing it. She is kind, loving, loyal and hopeful to the end; an inspiration to those who have hit rock bottom, enabling them to realise that the only way is up.
Celie has some massive songs in the show. How did you feel about that?
Well, we all love a good sing, don’t we! It’s nice to give your voice a stretch out, have a proper sing and really get in there whilst maintaining a strong technical foundation and staying healthy, which is what I tell all my vocal students. The show spans 30 years and encompasses musical genres such as blues, jazz, gospel and it even gets a little bit funky which enables me to use different vocal qualities and colours within my voice.
It’s a joy to perform the music because the songs and the book are so well written. You end up being steeped in the sentiment of what you’re doing so you’re able to put that emotion directly into the song and easily communicate that feeling to your audience.
What does the story The Color Purple mean to you?
There are so many different layers in The Color Purple. The story speaks of love and different types of love: love between siblings, love between parents and children, love between lovers, love for your community, love for your friends and most importantly for Celie, self-love. So, clearly, love is huge in the show along with hope, faith and friendship.
Years ago, my Mom borrowed a copy of the film from one of her friends and, as she was watching and giving her usual running commentary, I remember the rest of my family being drawn into the living room by the powerful, compelling, uplifting story and rooting for the wonderful characters that Alice Walker had brought into being.
I knew then that The Color Purple was something special and I’m truly privileged to be tasked with portraying Celie.
Hear more from Me'sha and other members of The Color Purple company during rehearsals: