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NPR Arts & Life
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

High School Uses Original Broadway Props For The Color Purple


The Northwest School of the Arts is the first high school in North Carolina to have the rights to put on a high school production of the Broadway musical "The Color Purple." The play is based on the 1982 Pulitzer-Prize winning novel of the same name by Alice Walker, centered on the story of a black woman’s struggle to find her identity while overcoming abusive family relationships. 

Mekhai Lee, a junior at Northwest, plays the male lead of Mister. He sings from inside a shop set in rural Georgia in the early twentieth century.

“Northwest shows aren’t like any other shows," Lee says. "Because we're an arts school we excel in the arts, and we put on just some really phenomenal shows and a lot of people underestimate that and expect some mediocre high school show and we put on great shows."

One of the things that stands out about this production is the set. Nearly all of the props are from the original Broadway production.

The show’s director, Corey Mitchell, has been working to get the rights to the show for over seven years.  

“When I took anatomy and physiology, I could hold up the book in class and read The Color Purple from the inside and Ms.Shoemaker never paid attention except for when I failed dissecting my cat,” Mitchell says.  

After many phone calls and e-mails, Mitchell found out last fall from Theatrical Rights Worldwide that Northwest has permission to perform the play.

But it’s not cheap. Getting the rights to the show cost $5,000. And altogether, it cost $33,000. That includes rent of the theater, the Broadway set and costumes.

But Mitchell thinks it was worth the wait and the money.

“I feel like I’m on cloud nine," Mitchell says. "Charlotte is going to be in for a real treat for what we’re about to do for them.”

The students have been practicing six days a week since mid-August. The show runs through Sunday at Central Piedmont Community College's Halton theater. The show will be performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday at the Dale F. Halton Theatre, Central Piedmont Community College.