Review: "The Color Purple"

December 31, 2009
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The love-fest going on between Clowes Hall audiences and the touring musical "The Color Purple" is, in some ways, not surprising. The show contains a handful of rousing, heartfelt songs (the act 1 closer "What About Love?" and the requisite self-realization number "I'm Here" tops among them) and characters to care about.

What's surprising is the radical nature (for commercial musical theater, at least) of what actually happens on stage. Most musicals are some variation of boy meets girls/boy loses girls/boy gets girls. In this case, it's woman is beaten by men/woman finds woman/woman loses woman/woman stays friends with woman/woman finds herself/woman makes peace with man. Or something like that. The villain isn't punished in any conventional way. Life moves forward.

For a show that is, in large part, about forgiveness, some forgiveness is necessary on the part of the audience. A lot of plot is crammed into the show, sometimes leading to a justifiable  "Huh?" reaction. Transitions are often blunt and awkward (early on, a baby is taken from her mother and then, rapid flash forward, we find Mom playing happily with her sister). Some songs and dances seem cut off before they reach full power.

Conventions of theater dictate that a show can't be six hours long--and the creators of the show seem determined to work as much of the novel into the show as possible--but the density often hurts the show. Important information is rattled off quickly in dialogue and in lyrics, and the inconsistency of Clowes Hall sound can make picking out those details difficult.

All that said, "The Color Purple" often soars. An outstanding cast--including some members of the original Broadway company--raises the roof in thrilling ways. Felicia P. Fields, a Tony nominee from the original Broadway cast, is indelible as Sofia (playing in the movie by one of the show's producers, Oprah Winfrey).

Kudos, too, to the makeup and costume department, that believably age the actors over the decades-long story.

Your thoughts?

  • A lot to process in one night
    Having never read the book or seen the movie, I came into Clowes with very minimal knowledge of the plot. At the end of the night, I told mom, "boy, that was a lot to process in one night." I enjoyed the show, but I there weren't many songs you would want to listen to on your iPod.
  • Thank you Lou!
    Thank you Lou for such an interesting Q&A session after the show. The session did shed light on how much was cut from the original workshops and provided great insight from performers who had been with this production for over 6 years. Despite some lack of clarity, it was a fantastic production of a great musical. Rarely do you find such talent in a touring company on an Indianapolis stage.
  • photos and songs
    I saw "The Color Purple" at Clowes Hall last Tuesday night and wrote about it on my own blog. I included several of the photos that I received as part of my press materials because I've been thinking some more about a topic you started here, Lou, a few weeks ago, about the significance of photos in reviews. In some ways they still feel like spoilers to me, but I love looking at them after a show, just as I love writing about shows afterwards. Words will always be more important to me, but I always appreciate when a theatre sends me publicity photos.

    Speaking of words, I am sorry that I could not attend the "talk back" session with Lou and the actors after the Wednesday night performance. You always ask good questions, Lou!

    Speaking of photos, I love the photo that you (Lou) selected to go with your review of "Love Letters" at the IRT. I also love your idea of having several IRT regulars take turns playing the two roles. However, I would still like to see it "as is" sometime before it closes, especially now that I have read your thoughts on it and seen a photo of how it has been staged.

    Barbara, I have to laugh: it didn't even occur to me that I could select just my favorite songs from "The Color Purple" to put on my iPhone. The whole iTunes thing is still very new to me. (What can I say? I am NOT an early adaptor in most areas.) I bought the show's CD at intermission, though, and have enjoyed listening to the whole thing over the past few days, so that was probably the best thing for me anyway.

    Hope Baugh
    Indy Theatre Habit

Post a comment to this blog

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
  1. Here are a few candidates for this new group, "ripped from the headlines." First up, that bizzaro State Senator Brent Waltz; secondly, the unethical Todd Huston, and his contractual arrangements scheme; Finally, but not least of all, the dishonorable Eric Turner. What sayeth you Greg Zoeller?

  2. Good day. I can't hide this great testimony that take place in my life I will love everyone to know it and be partaker that is why I always place it on answer, I am Mrs,Natalie Cuttaia by name, I live in Texas, United State Of America, I want to thank (Mr.Bruce Brandon) for his kindness upon my family life. I never knew that there is still nice lender like this on internet and earth here. Just some Months Back, I was in search for a loan of $100,000,00 as I was running out of money for feeding and rent. I was scammed $6,800 Dollars and I decided not to involve my self in such business again but a Friend of my introduced me to a loan firm due to my appearance and doings. And I told him that I am not interested of any loan deal anymore but he told me that there is still a nice lender who he will recommend me to, and I made a trial and I am most grateful lucky am I today, I was given a loan amount of $100,000.00usd, by this great Company (Bruce Brandon Loan Company) managed by (Mr.Bruce Brandon) If you are in need of a genuine or legit loan or financial assistance and you can be reliable and trusted of capable of paying back at the due time of the funds I will advice you to, contact him via: ( ) And you will be free from scams in the internet. All thanks to Mr.Bruce Brandon You are the one who remove me and my family out of poverty. The reason why i am doing this is that, i promise Mr.Bruce Brandon that if i truly got my loan, i will advertize his company and bring customers to his company. Contact him via ( )for the Loan you have been looking for..

  3. Hello, We are firm Organization formed to help people in needs of helps,such as financial help. So if you are going through financial difficulty or you are in any financial mess,and you need funds to start up your own business,or you need loan to settle your debt or pay off your bills,start a nice business, or you are finding it hard to obtain capital loan from local banks,contact us today via email So do not let these opportunity pass you by because Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever more. Please these is for serious minded and God fearing People. Your Name: Loan Amount: Loan Duration: Valid Cell Phone Number: Thanks for your understanding to your contact as we Await Regards Management

  4. The question is, where could they build a new stadium? It seems in the past year, all the prime spots have been spoken for with potential projects. Maybe in the industrial wasteland area a block past Lucas Oil? I think it needs to be close to the core, if a new stadium is built.

  5. Aldi is generally a great shopping experience. Still, I'm sure YOU wouldn't want to shop there, which I consider a positive.