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a Musical
by Brian Crawley (words) & Jeanine Tesori (music)

COMPANY : Act 3 Productions [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Act 3 Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 4984

SHOWING : November 04, 2016 - November 19, 2016



As a girl, Violet was struck by a wayward axe blade when her father was chopping wood, leaving her with a visible scar across her face. With enough money finally saved she’s traveling across the 1964 Deep South towards a miracle - the healing touch of a TV evangelist that will make her beautiful. Though she may not succeed in having the scar on her face healed, Violet is able to repair those that are lying deeper than her skin; and on the way she meets a young, African-American soldier whose love for her reaches far past her physical "imperfections". Winner of the Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical when it premiered off-Broadway in 1997, and then on to a Tony-nominated Broadway debut in 2014 with a revised version, "Violet" is a moving musical featuring show-stopping anthems ranging from American-roots to folk to gospel.

Director Taylor Sorrel
Music Hall Singer, Mabel, etc. Doriane Velvet Alston
Billy Dean, Virgil, etc. Andrew Berardi
Young Vi Dorey Casey
Monty Jeremy Cooper
Old Lady, Hotel Singer Michelle Davis
Leroy Evans, Radio Soloist, etc. Jonathan Goff
Violet Laura Gronek
Flick Tyree Jones
Father Michael Rostek
Preacher, Bus Driver, etc. Weston Slaton
Lula Buffington, Almeta, etc. Nylsa Smallwood
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Transformation Through Disfigurement
by playgoer
Saturday, November 5, 2016
Violet was disfigured by an axe head as an adolescent and is now embarking on a bus trip to a television faith healer in the hopes of having the scar miraculously removed. She encounters two servicemen on her journey, and through them she finds types of redemption she had not anticipated. Do we see the scar? No; only in the reactions of the actors looking at Violet. And we sense it in her worldview and her actions.

Laura Gronek’s performance as Violet is a revelation. She doesn’t have much opportunity to showcase her excellent skills as a dancer in the minimal, yet effective choreography of Johnna Barrett Mitchell, but -- boy! -- does she get a chance to show off her beautiful singing voice and achingly relatable acting. She’s the heart of the show, and it’s a vibrant, beating, truthful heart.

A younger version of Violet is played by a pig-tailed Dorey Casey. Her voice too is wonderful, as is her acting. The power of her role as the Young Vi is diminished a bit, however, by having Ms. Casey also fill in as a member of the ensemble, which initially dims the clarity of some scenes.

The two servicemen are the other two major roles in the largely through-sung show. Tyree Jones may be too young, short, and doughy for his role as an army sergeant, but he has a glorious singing voice that brings down the house in his solos. Jeremy Cooper is more stereotypically appropriate for his role as a handsome and callow army man, and he admirably fills the part of a lothario with unadmirable qualities.

The cast is augmented by seven actors who play various roles. All are good, with Weston Slaton a particular standout as a high-powered televangelist. Michelle Davis, Nylsa Smallwood, and Jonathan Goff have terrific singing voices that help to make their various characters memorable. The others hold their own and occasionally shine.

The orchestra, led by music director John-Michael d’Haviland, provides more than adequate accompaniment, with occasional, isolated sour violin notes the only thing detracting from the string-heavy beauty of the near-constant music. The simple, effective set design, by Theresa Dean and Danny Mitchell, arrays four brick-bottomed window units across the stage, with a low brick platform center stage. Taylor Sorrel’s light design adds color to the windows occasionally and nicely highlights the action on the stage. Ben Sterling’s sound design makes everything audible, but it is sometimes disconcerting to hear audio from a speaker at one side of the stage when the character to whom the voice belongs is making an entrance from the other side. Mary Sorrel’s props are fine.

When a show works as well as this "Violet" does, the director deserves a large portion of praise. Taylor Sorrel has created a show with fluid movement, a satisfying arc, and a memorable sound and look. Like the character Violet herself, the show does not show blemishes to the audience. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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