Nora Dominick ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
“Left my troubles all behind me. Right there when I climbed on board.” This classic line from the song “On My Way” completely sums up my thoughts on the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of Violet.
Violet opened its doors at the American Airlines Theatre in NYC for previews on March 28, 2014. With music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, the musical tells the story of Violet (Sutton Foster), a young woman who is on a quest for beauty in the image-obsessed world of the 1960s. Violet was facially disfigured during a childhood accident and dreams of a transformation to get rid of her scar through the power of faith. Convinced that a televangelist in Oklahoma can heal her, she hops on a Greyhound bus in search of her miracle. Along the way, Violet creates unlikely friendships with Flick (Joshua Henry) and Monty (Colin Donnell), two Army officers travelling on the same bus. Flick and Monty are the two people who begin to see the beauty, love, and courage past Violet’s scar. The storylines are very clear and create incredible depth for the characters of Violet, Flick and Monty. Although the show is only an hour and 45 minutes, the backstories and dialogue allow the audience to connect with each character on a personal level. Each character has his or her own struggle, whether it’s Violet with her scar, Flick with the issue of racism, or Monty’s lack of emotional connection.
Violet first graced the off-Broadway stage during the 1997 season and won the 1997 Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical. It now takes the Broadway stage through the Roundabout Theatre Company. The musicals revival comes after a very successful “Encores!” one-night only production last summer. “The Encores!” production starred the incredibly talented Sutton Foster and the irresistible Joshua Henry, who have now followed the production to Broadway. The relatively short musical is jam-packed with music, which is amazing considering the talented cast. The songs seamlessly blend together acoustic guitar with classical piano, which creates an astonishing score that is unlike anything else on Broadway right now.
One of the common trends in this Broadway season is a small cast. Violet has a cast of seven, and there are several key players that could be headed to the Tony Awards. Of course, leading lady Sutton Foster continues to show audiences why she has been nominated for every musical she has taken part in. She has a stunning resume and can add Violet to her list of accomplishments. A five-time Tony Award nominee for Actress in a Musical, she has secured herself amongst Broadway’s elite. She has also won two Tony Awards for her roles in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes. Violet, however, is much different than these other shows. Instead of having numerous costume changes, elaborate make-up, and show-stopping dance numbers, Foster never changes costume and wears little to no makeup. The thing that blows you away is her voice. She is able to command the room with the simplest notes. The music in Violet suits Foster’s vocal range perfectly.
Her reputation drew me into the show; however, I was left absolutely amazed by Joshua Henry’s performance as Flick. Flick is an African American who struggles with not being promoted in the Army based on his race. Henry’s booming tenor voice shines during the song “Let It Sing,” which earned him a standing ovation mid-show. Out of the entire show, if an actor were to have a chance at a Tony Award, it would be Henry.
Another common feature on Broadway this season is minimalism with set pieces, and Violet continues this trend. The setting is a 1960s themed bus stop with chairs set up to create the bus. Props are few and most of the characters mime their actions, which is an interesting approach. Also, the orchestra consists of a classical piano, an electric piano, and two acoustic guitarists, who are set upstage behind the action rather than in a traditional orchestra pit. The other interesting piece is Violet’s scar. She explains that the scar creates a rainbow shape across her face, and we see right away that people are afraid of her because of it. The interesting take in this production is that Foster does not sport a scar. The audience is left to imagine what the scar looks like. This allows the audience to see Violet for who she is and to not let the scar define her, which is incredibly powerful.
From the stunning performances by both Foster and Henry to the incredible music, Violet is a musical you don’t want to miss this season. The musical officially opens at the American Airlines Theatre on April 20, 2014 and will close on August 6, 2014. This short musical delivers the powerful message of overcoming differences and accepting who you are. Don’t miss out on this incredible musical.