Bringing in the New Year with a big bang, Los Angeles has been buzzing about Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple”. One of the primary reasons is due to the outstanding performance of Mister played by Rufus Bonds, Jr.
Bonds Jr. electrifies audiences night in and night with a rare and unforgettable performance. The character Mister has never been portrayed with such an in depth view and emotional commitment. . Just as when you read the novel, while watching the musical you can grow with the characters and never is that more evident than with the performance of Mister played by Bonds, Jr.
“The Color Purple” musical also features stars of the Broadway production, Jeanette Bayardelle, Felicia P. Fields (Tony Award Nominated for the role of Sofia), along with Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams and “American Idol” alum Latoya London.
This musical of love and passion is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and has been called the “best ticket in town” by many satisfied patrons. Seeming as though he was born for the part, the Sentinel sat down with Rufus Bonds Jr. and asked him a few questions about his overall experience with “The Color Purple” musical and how he came to play the unforgettable role of Mister.
(Sentinel) How did you originally get involved with the musical?
(Bonds, Jr.) When I first saw the movie, I always admired the project and the journeys of the characters. I called my agent and told him I wanted to audition for the part. That’s basically what it is, I really went after it. I did the homework and studied the material they gave me. I read the book again and just began to ask my parents questions about the south at that time period. I auditioned and actually didn’t get the Broadway show but then when they started the tour I auditioned again and now I’m on the road.
(Sentinel) When you first read the book, what really stood out about the story and the character of Mister?
(Bonds, Jr.) The story was amazing in itself. When I read the book and then I saw the movie, to see that what I saw in my mind was actually the same thing that was on the screen, pretty much was fascinating to me. And then when I looked at Danny Glover and looked at him playing the role and really looked at him, I didn’t see this viscous man but I saw this man who was in pain and I saw also the gentle side of him and I wanted to show that. Bring those qualities to life that couldn’t be done on film but try to show the entire complexity of the black man in that time period. When I read the book and I saw that Alice Walker was stating that Mister loved Shug desperately. You know they had three children together, they played together, they played dress-up, and all of these silly little kid things that also showed his freedom as a man during that time period. I wanted to show all of those things as well
(Sentinel) What would you say is one of the more powerful scenes in the musical that allows you to bring the character of Mister to life?
(Bonds, Jr.) It’s the whole journey of him (Mister) because he is so vastly different almost every scene as he reaches to go toward the end. He doesn’t know about the end yet because he doesn’t know he needs a transformation in the beginning. When you start off with the violence in the scene, you are really into that because of the projection of the pain and the image of somebody who is before you that you did not want, which is another reiteration of love not being available to you.
(Sentinel) How has it been working with your fellow cast members?
(Bonds, Jr.) The other cast members are great and they have great spirits. That makes it very easy to go to work and be able to play in a playground with kids that want to play.
(Sentinel) So tell me a little bit more about yourself and your background as an actor?
(Bonds, Jr.) I was a chemist and I went to the University of Cincinnati. I was extremely shy growing up but I sang all my life growing up in church so my gift was my voice. After graduating from the University of Cincinnati, I got a job and I thought about going to medical school because a lot of my friends wanted me to go with them but it just wasn’t my passion and I knew I didn’t want to be a lab technician all my life. So a good friend of mine, Donald Lawrence who is known on the gospel circuit, taught me two songs that helped me get a full scholarship to a conservatory school. I was 26 years old starting completely over.
(Sentinel) Does Mister ever take a toll on you emotionally where you might leave work and still be in character?
(Bonds, Jr.)For some reason I am able to leave my emotion at work and it’s probably because my character Mister redeems himself in the end. When I did “Big River”, here at the Mark Taper (Forum Theatre), it was very hard on me emotionally because my character was a slave. That was very wearing on my being. But there have been certain roles I’ve played and I can recall my wife saying I can’t wait until this is over.
(Sentinel) What can the Los Angeles crowd look forward to and take home from the Color Purple experience?
(Bonds, Jr.) I think its going to allow people to reevaluate themselves and think for a moment in terms of what in them is painful? What is it in them that makes them happy and then question themselves on where they want to be in their lives.
Oprah Winfrey Presents “The Color Purple”, opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in December of 2007 and performances will continue until March 9th, 2008. Tickets are available by calling Center Theatre Group Audience Services at (213) 628-2772, in person at the Center Theatre Group box office or on-line at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. Groups: (213) 972-7231. Deaf Community: information & charge, TDD (213) 680-4017.