On the surface it is a very simple, almost cliché story. It is a family saga about an abused and uneducated black woman's struggle for empowerment. But if you look a little deeper, there are several very interesting stories and points of view.
The musical subtitles itself as “the musical about love.” But it is much more than that; it is also about wisdom, hope and forgiveness. It has a very interesting and progressive take on religious doctrine and theology. First, it is a very spiritual musical. It is filled gospel anthems and hymns as well as blues and soulful songs. But instead of the traditional Christian theology that redemption and salvation is only possible through Christ, every character in the story finds healing through the internal search for God. Forgiveness begins with yourself and taking responsibility for your actions.
Another interesting aspect about this story is that although it is a classic “chick flick” type of story of strong, independent women, the men, even the most reprehensible ones, are also three dimensional characters that are capable of redeeming themselves.
Finally, it is wonderful tale of a person learning and accepting their sexuality late in life. The main character, Celie, has several songs about her coming out experience. The most touching is after she comes out and experiences her first long term same sex relationship that ends in a betrayal. She sings the song “I’m Here”.
In the YouTube video, Fantasia performs "I'm Here" at the 61st Annual Tony Awards. Jeannette Bayardelle is dong the touring production with Michelle Williams from Destiny's Child, Latoya London from American Idol, and Tony nominee Felicia P. Fields.
My favorite lyrics to the second half of “I’m Here”.
I'm gonna take a deep breath.
Gonna hold my head up.
Gonna put my shoulders back,
And look you straight in the eye.
I'm gonna flirt with somebody
When they walk by.
I'm gonna sing out . . .
I believe I have inside of me
Everything that I need to live a bountiful life.
With all the love alive in me
I’ll stand as tall as the tallest tree.
And I’m thankful for everyday that I’m given,
Both the easy and hard ones I’m livin'.
But most of all
I’m thankful for
Loving who I really am.
Yes, I’m beautiful,
And I’m here.
If you have a chance, see the show while it is on tour or in NYC.
(Final note: Yes, I love the show but I do have one criticism of the production. The dream ballet that opens the second act needs to be reconceived. The choreography comes across as if it was cut from “The Lion King”. )