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

"Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again" is a Fun Musical and Showcase for the Wonderful Lily James: Review

Film Review: Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is the sequel to the 2008 film Mamma Mia , which was based on the stage musical of the same name, which itself was based on the songs of ABBA. If it seems like some of the fun would be lost with each additional iteration,   Here We Go Again proves otherwise. As unnecessary as it may be, the sequel is an exceptionally fun time at the movies. Following the Godfather Part II template, Here We Go Again is actually half-sequel, half-prequel, with a continuation of the first movie's plot interwoven with flashbacks depicting how Donna met each of her daughter's potential fathers and how she came to inexplicably live on a gorgeous Greek island, which was set up in the first film. Being the second musical to exclusively feature the music of ABBA, Here We Go Again  faces the inevitable challenge of the first movie having done nearly all of the Swedish group's best and most well-known songs. A number of th

"My Mind Turns Your Life Into Folklore": Why Taylor Swift's "Gold Rush" Is a Song About Songwriting

"My mind turns your life into folklore." That line, from the song "Gold Rush," is the only time the word "folklore" is spoken on either of Taylor Swift's 2020 records, Folklore and Evermore , the latter of which is where the song appears. The presence of the line indicates that "Gold Rush" is a pivotal song not only in Swift's lockdown duology, but in her maturation as a songwriter.  Swift's early albums often drew heavily from her own experiences, with fans and the media scouring her lyrics for clues as to which ex-boyfriend her numerous breakup songs referred. Her tumultuous dating life made as many headlines as her music, in part because it informed so much of the music. The discourse was often ridiculous and reductive, and thankfully, that period of her career is over (Swift has been in a relationship with the actor Joe Alwyn since 2016).  Both of her 2020 albums have their fair share of autobiographical songs, but they also see

Film Review: "Hail, Caesar!"

Film Review: "Hail, Caesar!" "Hail, Caesar!", the latest film from Joel and Ethan Coen, is set in Hollywood in the early 1950s, the final years before the collapse of the studio system. Josh Brolin plays Eddie Mannix, a studio exec whose job entails putting out all the fires started by the stars of the various films in production at the studio. These stars include George Clooney as an actor in a Ben Hur -like epic who gets kidnapped, Scarlett Johansson as the star of an 'aquamusical', similar to the ones starring Esther Williams, and Channing Tatum, who plays a Gene Kelly-like dancer starring in a sailor musical. The amount of time and detail given to these movies-within-the-movie is evidence of the brothers' love and appreciation for moviemaking, without which the movie would be in danger of feeling hollow and disingenuous.