Skip to main content

Theater Review: "Violet"

Theater Review: "Violet"



"Violet" opened on Broadway at the American Airlines Theater earlier this year. It is a revival of the Jeanine Tesori-Brian Crawley musical, which premiered off-Broadway in 1997, and is based off a one night only Encores! concert version done last summer. The plot revolves around a young woman, Violet, who has a scar across her face as the result of a horrific accident when she was young. She travels from North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma to seek the healing powers of a televangelist. Two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster portrays the title role. A complete departure for the star, known for her energetic tap- dancing  performances in musicals like "Throughly Modern Millie," and "Anything Goes". In "Violet" however,  Foster does not dance, does not have a single costume change, and wears no makeup. Any concerns that leaving her comfort zone would hinder Foster's preformance are put to rest the moment this dazzling production begins.



Directed by Leigh Silverman, "Violet's" stripped down feel complements the story, set largely on a Greyhound bus, perfectly. The supporting cast also does a wonderful job at filling in Violet's world. Alexander Germignani and Emerson Steele portray Father and Young Violet, respectively, as scenes depicting her childhood before and after the accident are interspersed throughout the show. Both are excellent, as is Annie Golden, who plays an old busybody Violet meets on the bus. Also among the passengers, Monty (Colin Donnell) and Flick (Joshua Henry). This reunites Foster and Donnell, who also starred in the 2011 revival of "Anything Goes". But it's Henry, who as an African-American soldier in the South in 1964, who really shines in this Tony-nominated role. 

Another highlight is the music. Tersori's score is filled with every from gospel to country to the blues. Standout songs include the jaunty 'On My Way', the expressively beautiful 'Lay Down Your Head', and the show-stopping 'Let It Sing'. This was the first time in a long time that I actually walked out of the theater actually humming the tunes. 

If "Anything Goes" was a showcase for Foster's dancing, then "Violet" is a showcase for her acting. Perfectly comfortable with the darker material, Foster switches from optimistic to devastated, hopeful to hopeless in an instant. While the scar is not visible on her face, the pain is. Not only do you completely buy into the fact that she is Violet (as opposed to an actor playing Violet), there are moments when everyone sitting in the audience becomes Violet as well. The universal nature of the hurt Violet feels is expertly used to get the audience to care about this character, even when we shouldn't. Not only did she expect to have her scar removed, but to be made beautiful, with "Ingrid Bergman cheekbones", as if the Lord was some sort of magician. There are also parallels to "The Wizard of Oz", especially when Violet comes to realize the televangelist is nothing but a charlatan, and that she was placing all her faith in him, instead of God.

The biggest surprise from "Violet" comes near the end, where she is actually healed by God. No, her physicals wounds are not healed, but her emotional ones are. She is finally able to move past the accident, and fall in love. The journey is at times tough to watch, but extremely rewarding in its evocative and stirring portrayal of deeply scarred woman. Perhaps the most satisfying experience at the theater in the past couple years, "Violet" is not to be missed.


TimScale: 80/100
Now until August 10th at the American Airlines Theater

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Ten Best Films of 2020

2020 was an odd year for movies. Many of the ones scheduled to come out in 2020 were delayed due to movie theaters closures brought on by the pandemic. And many of the ones that did actually come out were released digitally. In 2019, I saw 44 films in a movie theater. In 2020, I saw only 11, all during the first two and a half months of the year. While watching movies at home on my laptop or TV is far from the ideal cinematic experience, I still saw a number of great films. Here are 10 of them.  10. I'm Your Woman  It took a few days after watching this crime drama, directed by Julia Hart, for me to really appreciate the sly magic it worked. Starring Rachel Brosnahan as the wife of a criminal in the 1970s who, after her husband goes missing, learns more about the criminal world in which he lived. It finds a unique perspective on a generic story and upends the tropes of the genre by focusing on the moments that would happen offscreen in a typical crime drama. Available to watch on P

Every Julie London Album Ranked

Last month, for school I had to write a long research paper about 17th century Flemish flower paintings, which was a bit outside my comfort zone. So, I needed writing music and a lot of it. After listening a bit to Amazon Music's playlist "Big Band Christmas", I came across the song "Warm in December" by Julie London. It was a name I'd heard before, but I knew next to nothing about her. But the song was good enough to send me to Wikipedia, where I learned that London released 30 albums in the 14 years between 1955 and 1969. Most of the material she recorded was standards, the kind I spent most of 2020 listening to, so I decided that listening to London's entire discography (in order) would be perfect for writing my paper. Now, the paper's done ( I got an A), and I'm left with many, many thoughts about Julie London.  A film actress before releasing her first album, Julie is Her Name , in 1955, London had a mega-hit single with "Cry Me a River

The Ten Best TV Shows of 2020

Was 2020 an unusually great year for television, or did I just watch more things than I usually do? Probably the latter, but I had an exceptionally hard time choosing just ten shows to spotlight for this list. So, before I get into my picks, here are a few that I wish I could have included as well: I May Destroy You, A Teacher, The Great Pottery Throw Down, Dead to Me, Never Have I Ever, Love Victor, The Masked Singer, Love Life, B Positive  and Search Party.  10. The Undoing (HBO)/Big Sky (ABC) David E. Kelley has had a pretty busy fall, between miniseries The Undoing and his new drama Big Sky . I can't really say whether I find Big Sky to be a particularly good show, but I've seen every episode so far and haven't given up yet. The two shows are actually kind of inverses of each other; one a prestige premium cable miniseries with movie stars that turned out to be pretty pulpy, the other a lowly network show that's slowly letting more and more substance seep in. From