‘Color Purple’ gala lives up to its name

Johnathan Alexander and Rhonda Wilson perform at the Color Purple Gala at the Thomas Center.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 2:54 p.m.

It was an evening of elegance at the Color Purple Gala and regional premiere of “The Color Purple” and it provided an opportunity for the community to meet and greet the production’s cast and director while being treated to entertainment and pampered with food and champagne.



What: “The Color Purple,” a rendition of the Oprah Winfrey Broadway musical.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and July 26, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and July 27 and 4 p.m. Sunday and July 28.
Where: Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge, 1080 SW 11th St.
Tickets: $25 in advance, $40 at the door.
Information: Call 352-505-0174.

And they also got a taste of what to expect from the upcoming production through song and dance.

Produced by DanceCentral! Productions, “The Color Purple,” a rendition of the Oprah Winfrey Broadway musical adapted from “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Friday and July 26, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and July 27 and 4 p.m. Sunday and July 28 at the Performing Arts Center at P.K. Yonge at 1080 SW 11th St.

Tickets are $25 in advance and $40 at the door. To purchase tickets in advance call 352-222-3699, email angetrell@aol.com, or visit http://madearskidsworld.webstarts.com.

The nearly 100 men, women and children who attended the gala held last Sunday at the Thomas Center enjoyed an evening that began with mingling, followed by entertainment by the cast and ending with a reception of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries with photo opportunities with the cast.

Felicia Walton, founder and artistic director of DanceCentral! and director of “The Color Purple,” recognized the cast, which consists of 35-40 artists from Gainesville and Alachua County, including those who work behind the scenes.

Walton was very pleased with the turnout and the performances.

“I know today it’s a total success,” Walton said. “I wanted to let the community know about these young people and the seasoned performers blending together to create a great cast.”

Alice Walton, executive director of DanceCentral!, served as mistress of ceremony.

Felicia Walton performed Langston Hughes’ poem, “Black Like Me,” while Niyin Smith danced. Sebrenah Phillips and Isiah Blount sang a duet to “Any Little Thing” from “The Color Purple,” Brianna Reichard sang “Halleluiah” a capella, Johnathan Alexander and Rhonda Wilson sang a duet to “Wheel of a Dream” from “Ragtime,” Elizabeth Walton Coleman, sister of Felicia and Alice Walton, sang “You Are My Fortress and the full cast sang “Mysterious Ways” from “The Color Purple.”

Kareena Wallace recited an original poem titled, “Biological Clock,” and Bradley Small also recited an original poem titled, “Loving God.”

Phillips sang “It Was You,” an original piece from her upcoming album to be released next spring. Brandon Hall sang “I Believe in You and Me,” Malik Moore sang “Ribbon in the Sky” and Bryant Smith sang a rendition of “I Look to You” by Whitney Houston.

The entertainment concluded with the full cast singing “The Color Purple.”

Wilson said the gala did a good job of introducing the upcoming play and the cast.

“I hope they (people) come to see this production,” Wilson said. “It will be amazing and different.”

Angela Terrell, an activist of the arts, said the upcoming production of “The Color Purple” will leave lasting memories.

“For the people who feel it’s not robbery to spend hundreds of dollars to experience a Broadway show in New York City,” Terrell said, “rest assured that for a small fee here in Gainesville, you will get the same caliber of talent and experience that will leave lasting memories.”

Walton Coleman lamented she has to return home to Michigan and will miss the play.

“I’m delighted to have been able to experience this part and disappointed I won’t be here for the production,” she said.

Alice Walton declared the event a success.

“We accomplished what we set out to do, which is to showcase the talents of the cast and put it in an arena where the public could participate,” she said.

Gala-goers praised the event.

Alachua County Tax Collector Von Fraser called it wonderful.

“I’m so glad to have been a part of it,” Fraser said. “I can’t wait to see the play.”

Terri Bradley called it beautiful.

“This is totally different from what I expected,” Bradley said. “It was a professional production. I can’t wait for ‘The Color Purple’ production.”

Turbado Maribou said it was gratifying to see local talent that can live up to a play of the magnitude of “The Color Purple.” “It was quite gratifying to see such talent in such an impactful play like ‘The Color Purple,’” Marabou said.

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