The Color Purple by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray 

Broadway Theater, 1681 Broadway at 53rd St.

Ok, I admit it. I cried numerous times while watching this musical (as did Rosie O’Donnell, who was sitting right next to me). But my tears resembled the ones I shed when watching Extreme Makeover: Home Edition — they were sparked by sympathy, not artistry or subtlety. Based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the show traces the mythic journey of Celie (LaChanze), a poor black girl who finds freedom through her relationships with women — her sister, her lover, and eventually herself. But first she’s raped and impregnated (twice!) by her father, separated from her children and sibling, and beaten by her husband — not exactly toe-tapping material. Yet this tuner with its catchy pop-meets-gospel score is determined to remain upbeat. The episodic first act moves along at a brisk clip, with brief snippets of dialogue providing adequate exposition in between show-stopping numbers. But the talky second half is dull and shamelessly manipulative, just like the book. Fans of Oprah (who helped produce the show) will doubtlessly eat it all up. But the rest of us will gag on our tears.

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