Musical Theater: Purlie

Music Genres Used

The musical that I had the pleasure of watching was called Purlie also known as Purlie Victorious. Originally made by Ossie Davis in 1961 it was turned into a musical by Peter Udell and Gary Geld and later was made into a book. The musical debuted on Broadway March 15, 1970, with a stunning 688 shows. The musical genres used in the musical was gospel and negro spirituals that I could distinctly pick out. The 15 songs in the musical do a great job of capturing the mood of the characters and tell a story of what is going on.

The musical was important because of the time period it was recreating. After emancipation in the era of Jim Crow laws the musical shows the tensions of African American people. Although being legally free many were still bound to white men who employed them and treated them like slaves. Society at the time was unaccepting of black people and especially in the South racial tensions were high.

The storyline is Reverend Purlie Victorious on a mission to reopen Big Bethel which is a local church. He plans to do this by tricking Ol Cap’n Cotchipee who is the local plantation owner. Although slavery is over Ol’ Cap’n acts as if it was never over by working all the black people in the cotton fields. Ol Cap’ns wife left an inheritance to Purlie’s Aunt Henrietta and when she passed away the money should’ve been given to her daughter Cousin Bee. Little does Ol’ Cap’n know that Cousin Bee has too passed but Purlie finds a young girl named Lutiebelle to play as Cousin Bee to obtain the inheritance. With the money, Purlie would be able to buy back Big Bethel. Purlie’s plan gets foiled when Lutiebelle signs her own name instead of Cousin Bee. The musical opens at the funeral of Old Cap’n Cotchipee but then goes back to how they got to that point. I really enjoyed the music which I was really surprised by. I did not expect it to be as humorous as it was.

Image result for purlie characters


Purlie Victorious

Lutiebelle Gussimae



Ol’ Cap’n



Piano, Violins, Percussion, Cello, Tamborine and other instruments

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