Last week, America elected a black president, and California voted on gay marriage. Now we’ve got the musical version of “The Color Purple,” which deals with race, sexuality, and identity.
This is a proudly African American cultural extravaganza. All 31 actors are black, the score draws on gospel, jazz and blues, the language is down home.
It’s also a Broadway show, with brassy arrangements, dancing, colorful costumes and sets. It’s a $10 million effort, and you can see where all that money went. Rural Southern poverty never looked so good.
Musicals almost always feature a love story, and love triumphs in this show. Of course, the main romance involves two women, Celie and Shug. This was prominent in Alice Walker’s gritty novel; it got toned down in Stephen Spielberg’s sentimental film. In this king-sized stage version, the romance is symbolized by a climactic kiss at center stage. Any grownup understands what’s implied, but the producers don’t want to upset the applecart too much. Which is to say that this musical is a carefully measured, audience-friendly entertainment that reflects the divided mood of our times.
The Color Purple plays at the Community Center Theatre through Sunday, November 16th.