Violet directed by Leigh Silverman
Music: Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics: Brian Crawley
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
Content Rating: 16+
Cast: Sutton Foster, Joshua Henry, Colin Donnell, Alexander Gemignani, Emerson Steele, Annie Golden
Violet tells the story of a young woman’s quest for beauty amidst the image-obsessed landscape of the 1960s. Facially disfigured in a childhood accident, Violet (Foster) dreams of a miraculous transformation through the power of faith. Convinced that a televangelist in Oklahoma can heal her, she hops a Greyhound bus and starts the journey of a lifetime. Along the way, Violet forms unlikely friendships with her fellow riders, who teach her about beauty, love, courage and what it means to be an outsider.
Should I pay full price for a ticket: The American Airlines theater is an intimate theater; I sat in the Mezz (rush tickets) and could see the actors faces clearly. I recommend doing rush or TKTS.
I have been absolutely dying to see Sutton Foster in, well, anything. I think she is incredible. So while Violet was probably my least favorite show that I saw in NYC, it had nothing to do with her performance.
The premise for Violet is pretty simple: the main character, Violet, played by Sutton Foster, is on her way to see a famed healing TV preacher to heal a disfiguring scar that she received when she was accidentally cut with an axe. On her face.
Pretty terrible right? So Violet jumps on a bus to head to this preacher, and the show follows the trip and the people (namely two men) that she meets and develops relationships with.
The performances were stellar. I had great fun seeing not only Sutton Foster, but also Colin Donnell as Monty and Joshua Henry as Flick, the two gentleman who befriend Violet. Both guys were insanely amazing, and I could have listened to them sing all day. These three leads were so effortless onstage, moving in and out of humorous moments to serious ones in the blink of an eye. Sutton Foster especially has this undeniable ability to captivate a whole audience just by standing onstage. It’s insane. She has this palpable intensity while she’s performing that keeps you from looking away. Other notable characters were Young Violet, played by Emerson Steele, and Violet’s father, played by Alexander Gemignani.
There was no moving set, no dance, no flashy costumes, practically no spectacle at all, except for a little flashiness when Violet arrived at the televangelist’s station. While this in no way lessens the quality of the musical, it just lessened my enjoyment a little, as I am all about big ensemble dance numbers. Especially when they are led by someone like Sutton Foster.
Interestingly enough, Violet’s scar is non-existent. In fact, Violet wears no makeup at all. The director chose to leave the scar up to the audience’s imagination. We are helped along by everyone’s reaction to her face, which was always a hard moment to watch. There’s even one flashback where a boy asks Young Violet out, but she knows it was just because of a bet another group of boys has made.
The script was a little confusing to me. There were lots of flashbacks, happening at the same time present stuff was happening, and I was a little confused as to what was going on for a good bit of the play.
The script tackles a few issues however, such as racism, TV preachers (who are less than preacher-like), and treating people who may look different than you with the same respect and decency that they deserve. The message of the show is powerful, and I will admit that I was crying for a good bit of the performance. At an hour and forty-five minutes, there is no intermission, and the trek through Violet’s past and present is filled with pain, but also joyful moments. There are many quietly powerful scenes in Violet, allowing the actors to really fill the stage with the emotion of the story, unhindered by any other theatrical devices.
The most disappointing part of this show for me was not the lack of spectacle, nor the confusing script, but the music. Jeanine Tesori wrote the music, and I was expecting great things since she also wrote Thoroughly Modern Millie, which I love. There were certainly some good songs in Violet, but generally, the score is less than memorable. Many of the songs seemed to flutter with potential but then fizzled as they continued on. One of my favorite moments in the show however, and one that I have been humming for the past few weeks, was one of the opening moments of the show, “On My Way”:
And here is the exciting Tony performance, where the cast performs a medley of “On My Way” and “Raise Me Up”
Violet will be closing on August 10.