Check your inhibitions at the door. At least, that’s what any patron with a pulse may feel inspired to do while watching the Goodman Theatre’s rousing revival of “Purlie,” Broadway’s 1970 musical satire of racial stereotypes. The book, whose plot concerns the efforts of a minister (handsome and velvety-voiced Jacques C. Smith in the title role) to win back a church from the clutches of a racist plantation owner in the South circa 1960, is sometimes silly, often hokey and yet peppered with enough edgy one-liners to make it register today. Still, this is critical nitpicking for a jubilant production that wants nothing more than to soar to the rafters when it sings and dances, which it does. From the sumptuous orchestrations and God-given voices that make a strong case for a Chicago cast recording, to Ken Roberson’s gorgeous choreography, most evocative in ballet passages that recall the distinct heritage of Alvin Ailey, the musical and visual joie de vivre had audience members un-self-consciously hand-clapping along and even—in an unobtrusive but affirming manner—audibly encouraging the performers (“Take your time and sing it, girl!”). Proof that—like a distinctly Southern church-going experience—this production of “Purlie” is all about being a witness, feeling its spirit and getting the message. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
This production is now closed.