Touring production of 'Color Purple' comes to the region

2012-01-20T00:00:00Z Touring production of 'Color Purple' comes to the regionBy Eloise Marie Valadez (219) 933-3365

Poignant, tragic and inspiring themes will be in the spotlight once again when the musical "The Color Purple" hits the stage Jan. 22 at Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville and Feb. 8 at The Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University in University Park, Ill.

The national Broadway tour of the musical will play for one night at each venue.

"One of the things about the latest version of this tour is it's playing many communities that don't necessarily get the major tours all the time. So, it's giving it more of an outreach," said Gary Griffin, the Chicago-based director of the production.

Griffin, who directed the original Broadway musical "The Color Purple," which opened Dec. 1, 2005, is also associate artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The director said he feels fortunate to have worked on such a powerful show.

"The Color Purple," based on the 1982 book by Alice Walker, tells the story of main character Celie and her struggles with her abusive father. She turns to writing letters to God as a way to deal with her horrendous plight. The story also sheds light on the oppressive lives of African American females in Georgia during the 1930s.

Griffin said the story "inspires people, makes you look at your struggles and teaches you to embrace them and then turn them into triumphs.

"If Celie can triumph, then we can all do better."

James Johnson, who portrays character Adam in the musical and also performs in the ensemble, said he's thrilled to be acting in the touring production. He's long wanted to be in "The Color Purple," adding he's been auditioning for the show for the last six years.

"It was a blessing to get this role," said Johnson, a Chicago native. "It's a show I've always liked a lot and I saw myself being in it."

Johnson previously performed with Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.

For Johnson, 25, the message he gets from the play is "it's really about love ... and once you find love in yourself, you can love others."

The actor is looking forward to visiting with family while he's in the area.

"I'm excited for my family to see it," he said, adding that some of his family will see "The Color Purple" in Merrillville while others will see it at GSU.

A graduate of the Chicago Academy of the Arts, Johnson also attended State University of New York-Purchase, where he studied dance.

"The performing arts have always been in me," he said. Johnson originally had aspirations of being a math teacher but said as he got older his sights turned to the stage arts.

"The Color Purple's" current touring production is scheduled to run through April.

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