by John Tarpley
Like "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Beloved," or "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," Alice Walker's vibrant Pulitzer-winning novel holds a proud place in the annals of Southern literature. Wrenching, controversial and, like its peers, completely irreplaceable, it's the story of Celie, an impoverished victim of rape in turn-of-the-century Georgia. After first being adapted into what may be Steven Spielberg's greatest film in 1985, "The Color Purple" found itself, 20 years later, faithfully revived on Broadway, set to jazz, gospel and the blues and receiving standing ovations at curtain, hyperbole in print and 11 Tony nods for Best Musical, Best Choreography, Best Music and, four times over, Best Performance. In short, this musical is a beast. Judging from the runaway success that was "Wicked" and Little Rock's revitalized interest in live plays, we can all but guarantee that the three-day stand of "Purple" will be the next in a chain of notable local theater. And with tickets starting at an enormously reasonable $22, there's just no excuse for any theater buff to pass this up. The musical opens Friday night at 7:30 p.m. before offering a 2 p.m. matinee and 7:30 p.m. evening performances on Saturday and Sunday.