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The Voice of the Black Community

Arts and Entertainment

‘Purple’ ambition
Northwest School of the Arts goes all out with ‘The Color Purple’
Published Thursday, August 9, 2012 1:06 pm
by Herbert L. White

Northwest School of the Arts is bringing Broadway to Charlotte with “The Color Purple.” 

Northwest School of the Arts teacher Corey Mitchell (center) examines props built by NWSA teacher Chip Davis (left) and senior Chris Eid for the school’s production of “The Color Purple.” NWSA is the second high school in the U.S. to earn permission to produce the musical version of Alice Walker’s play under license from Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

Northwest is the first N.C. high school and second in the nation to receive permission from Theatrical Rights Worldwide to do a musical production of Alice Walker’s play. Performances will be staged Sept. 14-16 at Halton Theatre on Central Piedmont Community College’s main campus. Tickets are $12-$15.

“We are excited about doing it,” director Corey Mitchell said. “We were approached a couple of years ago about doing it and I was licking my chops waiting for the right opportunity to come.”

NWSA is going all out for “Purple,” from the costumes’ design to bringing in Broadway cast members to help their high school counterparts. A couple of R&B veterans with Broadway experience – Fantasia Barrino and Stephanie Mills – have been recruited to teach master classes.

“It is about the costumes, set and detail work that goes into the look of the show, the color palette, baby bumps (when Celie was pregnant) and how Celie wears the color blue almost the entire show,” Mitchell said. “It is about a consistency standpoint for us. A great deal of detail to make it look consistent to the things we are renting from the Broadway show.”

Putting on “Purple” won’t come cheap. Acquiring rights to the show cost $5,000; renting Halton Theatre is another $15,000. Renting original sets and costumes from the Broadway production runs another $6,000. Expectations, Mitchell admits, are high beginning with the first rehearsals.

“We’re doing it very much like summer stock,” he said. “We’ll start on Wednesday and by the start of the (academic) year, we’ll know the parts. We’ll rehearse 9 to 5 each day to pull the show together.”

“The Color Purple” is NWSA’s first all-black production since “For Colored Girls” in 2006 and provides an opportunity for students who wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to play a lead role in a major production.

“With this show I felt there was a better opportunity for me to be cast in the lead,” said Keston Steele, a junior who’ll play Celie. “You think about shows like ‘West Side Story’ and you want to be cast in the lead, but the show still has to be realistic.”

Mitchell is betting the realism and cast will be good enough to earn an invitation to the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Neb., a global showcase of top high school productions.

“This is more than a high school show,” he said. “It’s going to be one of the best high school shows in the country this year.”
Tickets can be purchased with a call to CPCC’s Box Office, (704) 330-6534.

On the Net:

Tickets for Northwest School of the Arts production of ‘The Color Purple’


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