Theatre Review: The Color Purple

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(Sacramento, CA)
Sunday, November 9, 2008

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.