Thursday, June 12, 2014

Violet ****

What a pleasure it is to attend a musical where the music is the main attraction! This intimate musical theater piece originally produced at Playwrights Horizons in 1997 has finally made it to Broadway in a thrilling production that shows off the beautiful score by Jeanine Tesori to full advantage. Sutton Foster is amazing as a 25-year-old North Carolina farm woman whose face had been horribly scarred in a freak accident at the age of 13. (Her father’s axe flew off the handle while he was chopping wood.) The time is 1964, months after the Civil Rights Act became law. She is taking a bus to Tulsa, fully believing that her scar will be healed by a TV evangelist there. Along the way she meets two soldiers recently out of boot camp. Monty (Colin Donnell) is a charming skirt-chaser about to leave for Vietnam. Flick (Joshua Henry), as a black man, knows what it means to be an outsider. After Violet recruits them for a poker game at a rest stop, they both take a shine to her and the three decide to spend their overnight in Memphis together. Violet’s visit to Tulsa leads to a different kind of healing than she hoped for. Tesori’s score is a wonderful melange of country, blues and gospel that, in my humble opinion, outshines any other currently on Broadway. The lyrics and book by Brian Crawley are also fine, but I did have occasional trouble making out words. The excellent supporting cast includes Emerson Steele as the young Violet, Alexander Gemignani as her father, Ben Davis as the preacher, Annie Golden as both an old lady on the bus and a aged hotel hooker, and Rema Webb as the lead singer in the gospel choir. The onstage orchestra was excellent. Leigh Silverman’s direction skillfully blends past and present. David Zinn’s set and Clint Ramos’s costumes work well. I was afraid that such an intimate show would be lost in Roundabout’s American Airlines Theatre, but it is not. It was a thoroughly bracing evening. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes; no intermission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes to all you said. I hope to see Sutton Foster in another show sometime very soon.