The Color Purple Spousal abuse. Rape. Incest. Murder. Not exactly the stuff of which Broadway musicals are made. At least not musicals that expect to recoup their investment. But in bringing “The Color Purple” to the stage, at a cost of $10 million, lead producer Scott Sanders knew better. He assembled a crack creative team that was able to amplify the uplifting themes from the landmark 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker—faith, overcoming adversity, finding self-love—and turn the doleful epic into a toe-tapping, knee-slapping feel-good fest. Broadway Theatre, 1681 Broadway. $26.25 – $101.25 at 212-239-6200. (David Kennerley)
Creation: A Clown Show Their new project, “Creation: A Clown Show,” performed by Rooney under Pabotoy’s direction, is an extraordinary meditation on creation. In an economical, yet powerful and endearing 60-minute piece, we are asked to consider traditional beliefs, God, faith, and the unknowable reality of how the world came to be. Audiences can feel sympathy for a clutch of marshmallow chicks, consider whether or not God is a creation of man, and contemplate whether or not random happenstance and free will can co-exist with our notions of God as the Creator. Ends Sep. 10. Theater Five, 311 W. 43rd St. $31.50 – $39.50 at 212-868-4444.
THE DROWSY CHAPERONE Musical lovers also know that there isn’t a single moment in life that can’t be improved, explained, or experienced more poignantly through the right original cast album. Well, there’s vindication for those who turn to the musical for inspiration and solace. It’s the splendid new show “The Drowsy Chaperone,” an unabashed valentine to the musical form and its seductive ability to make sense of life and put it in perspective through song and dance. Marquis Theatre, 1535 Broadway at 45th St. $25-$110 at 212-307-4100. (Christopher Byrne)
The History Boys In a world that measures worth in dollars (or pounds) and that has traded education for specialized knowledge, have we lost some elements of what makes us uniquely human? That question, though it remains tantalizingly unanswered, is at the center of the sensational new play, “The History Boys.” The plot concerns a group of private school boys who are preparing for scholarship exams to get into Oxford and Cambridge. That, at least, is the basic plot, and Alan Bennett’s richly detailed and artfully written play is the greatest argument for the value of a traditional liberal arts education I’ve seen in years. Broadhurst Theatre, 235 W. 44th St. $46.25-$96.25; 212-239-6200. Through Oct. 1. (Christopher Byrne)
Indian Blood In one of his most obviously autobiographical plays to date, A.R. Gurney takes on the “memory play” genre to tell the story of a prosperous Buffalo family in 1946. Eddie, the son and Gurney’s stand-in, justifies antagonizing his loathsome cousin Lambert, because he has Indian blood in his veins—part of the family history promulgated by his grandfather. It’s the story of Eddie being suspended from school because of an obscene drawing—because Lambert ratted him out. This becomes the event around which Gurney explores the dynamics of the family in a time of change, drawn in rich tones heavily laced with nostalgia, and consistently sweet and engaging. Primary Stages, 59 E. 59th St. Tue. 7 p.m., $60 at 212-279-4200 (Christopher Byrne)
Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris The song cycle takes Brel’s prolific work and boils it down to about 20 numbers that show his emotional and musical range. It is decidedly French. The highs border on the manic, the lows are quite bleak, but through it all there is an unmistakable spirit and adult sensibility that takes life on its own terms and confronts it with an honesty that gives actor/singers something to really sink their teeth into. The compelling and artful production features four very talented singers. The Zipper, 336 W. 37th St. $65 at 212-239-6200. (Christopher Byrne)