Purlie Victorious opened to rave reviews at Broadway’s Music Box Theater on Wednesday. Featuring a hilarious script, expert direction, and exemplary Tony-worthy performances, especially by Leslie Odom Jr. and Kara Young, this production had critics in stitches and awe. By all accounts, Ossie Davis’s 1961 production is as wonderful and relevant, as ever and the revival well worth a trip to the theatre.
New York Times Review of Purlie Victorious
Kenny Leon’s thrillingly broad and warp-speed production aims to keep us in both time zones at once. … Davis’s farce is full-throttle, blending lowbrow physical humor straight out of vaudeville… Young, a two-time Tony nominee known mostly for dramatic roles…is also a daring comedian, finding in Lutiebelle a cross between Lucille Ball and Moms Mabley. That she is not afraid to go as far as the part can take her…is a sign of the freedom the play gives her (and everyone else) to represent a character instead of a race. As a result, some touchy old stereotypes, appropriated by whites and perverted as minstrelsy, are reclaimed and reframed. … But it’s Odom who carries the play’s weight as it shifts from genre to genre and reveals further layers of character. Part of the freedom Davis took for himself, and that Leon emphasizes in his staging, is the right to be many things at once, not all of them reputable.
TimeOut Review of Purlie Victorious
Comedies often age badly, and comedies about race are even riskier. But Purlie Victorious doesn’t crack: Directed knowingly by Kenny Leon, the show’s new Broadway production is a joyous affair, broad in comedy and in spirit. Davis populates his play with deceptively familiar types (the simple-minded country girl, the loyal mammy, the villainous Confederate, the simpering Uncle Tom) who have more dimensions than expected; the actors who inhabit them take manifest delight in subverting stock figures from the inside out. … Purlie Victorious is uncompromising in its defiance, but it rarely feels preachy. Its medicine goes down with a heap of dark brown sugar.
Deadline Review of Purlie Victorious
…Kenny Leon’s revival, opening tonight on Broadway, feels as current and bracing as a folding chair. Starring a magnificent Leslie Odom, Jr., in the title role, and featuring equally fine performances by an enchanting Kara Young, Billy Eugene Jones, Vanessa Bell Calloway and more, Purlie Victorious…has been given an urgent – and, oh yes, very, very funny – revival by Leon and his top-notch creative team. … the new Purlie, despite a few signs of age here and there, seems, near-miraculously, as contemporary and vital as the latest news cycle. … This is classic broad, screwball comedy, sharpened by Ossie Davis into razor satire and played to perfection by Young, whose previous quite good Broadway turns in Clyde’s and The Cost of Living couldn’t prepare audiences for the master class in physical comedy she delivers in Purlie. With her cat’s purr of a voice, she’s pure joy. … As for Odom, he’s no less splendid here than he was in his career-making performance in Hamilton, generously allowing his castmates to take the spotlight when called for and grabbing it back when necessary.
Variety Review of Purlie Victorious
Directed by Kenny Leon, the beauty of the Black vernacular is embedded in the “Purlie Victorious” script. Specificities of Black American life are infused within the jokes as Odom and the cast deftly switch from comedy to drama on a dime. … In addition to the dialogue, the entire cast is terrific, with Odom adapting the cadences of Davis’ oration. In his first Broadway performance since “Hamilton,” Odom electrifies as Purlie. Infusing a charismatic energy into a man who knows what he deserves but is forced to navigate countless prejudices to achieve it, the Tony Award winner is in his element here. … However, the gem of “Purlie Victorious” is Young’s performance as Lutiebelle. In addition to the electric chemistry between Young and Odom, the “I Am A Virgo” actress’ full-body commitment to her role, paired with Davis’ riveting writing, make her one of the most dynamic performers on the stage today.