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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Sutton Foster in "Violet" at American Airlines Theatre
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Roundabout Theatre Company Presents Sutton Foster in "Violet" at American Airlines Theatre

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Roundabout Theatre Company

Todd Haimes, Artistic Director
Harold Wolpert, Managing Director
Julia C. Levy, Executive Director
Sydney Beers, General Manager

Sutton Foster
Colin Donnell, Alexander Gemignani, Joshua Henry

Based on the NY City Center Encores! Off-Center Production

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and lyrics by Brian Crowley
Based on “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts

With Ben Davis, Annie Golden, Emerson Steele
And an ensemble of six actors/singers/dancers

Directed by Leigh Silverman
Choreography by Jeffrey Page
Music Direction by Michael Rafter

At the
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 47th Street

Set Design: David Zinn
Costume Design: Clint Ramos
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Sound Design: Leon Rothenberg

Hair & Wig Design: Paul Huntley
Orchestrations by Rick Bassett, Joseph Joubert, Buryl Red
Musical Coordinator: Seymour Red Press
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Dialect Coach: Kate Wilson
Casting: Jim Carnahan, CSA, Carrie Gardner, CSA,
Stephen Kopel, CSA
“Violet” General Manager: Denise Cooper
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Production Stage Manager: Kristen Harris
Press: Polk & Co.
Assoc. Managing Director: Greg Backstrom
Director of Marketing & Audience Dvpt.: Tom O’Connor
Director of Development: Lynne Guggenheim Gregory
Founding Director: Gene Feist
Adams Assoc. Artistic Director: Scott Ellis

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 25, 2014

Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of the 1997 country music-styled, one-act Violet is uncluttered and unpretentious. Sutton Foster, who wowed Broadway in dynamic, driven tap numbers in Cole Porter’s Anything Goes, is presented here with little to no makeup, singing soulfully about her yearning to be beautiful, with features chosen from Hollywood stars. Jeanine Tesori, who composed the score, and Brian Crowley, who wrote book and lyrics, created this one-act show as an adaptation of Doris Betts’ book, The Ugliest Pilgrim. Violet had a brief introduction at New York City Center Encores!. Ms. Foster’s voice can be appreciated, throughout the evening, with an onstage musical ensemble, highlighting her solos.

The story of Violet is rough; a young girl was victim to her father’s minor woodshed accident, leaving a horrible facial scar (invisible on Ms. Foster). Flashbacks bring out Emerson Steele as the young, vulnerable Violet and Alexander Gemignani as her emotional father. In the story, the mother had died, and some psychologically infused lyrics hint at the father’s feelings of bitter loneliness, “Luck of the Draw”. Violet, too, is lonely, as she takes a trip to find a television preacher, known to make miracles happen to those who pray. The preacher (Ben Davis) energizes the show with his mega-church song and dance gospel, “Raise Me Up”. In fact, this number, evocative of Sister Act a couple of years ago, brought the house down.

At a bus station rest stop, during Violet’s trip from North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma, she meets two soldiers in crisp uniforms, on their way to Fort Smith, who like to play poker. In a flashback, Violet’s father had taught her to win at poker, as a way of showing her strength to men. These soldiers were impressed and befriended the plain, young woman, not the type of lady they’d been looking for. It’s September 1964, and the war in Vietnam is raging. In Memphis, at a boarding house, Monty (Colin Donnell), handsome and smooth, soon finds his way to Violet’s room, after an evening of drinking with his buddy Flick (Joshua Henry). Flick, African American, seemed taken with Violet’s inner strength and kindness. Eventually Violet does make a choice, even though the preacher’s healing powers had been evocative of the Wizard of Oz. Mr. Donnell and Mr. Henry are both fine singer/dancers, but it was Mr. Henry’s “Let It Sing” that ensured his future standing on many Broadway stages to come. Mr. Gemignani was compelling as the tormented father, and Emerson Steele was very courageous in the flashback scenes. Additional cast played roles of a bus driver, passengers, Old Lady, Hotel Hooker, Music Hall Singer, and so on.

Leigh Silverman has directed for a clear focus on the poignant plot and multiple musical numbers. She keeps both dialogue and song central and stage front, for a sense of intimacy, even at the expansive American Airlines Theater, ensuring some of the intimacy that the Encores event enjoyed. David Zinn’s set design conjures up the church, preacher, and choir, right where a bus station, boarding house, and flashbacks had been, in the blink of an eye. Jeffrey Page’s choreography is secondary to this show, but the gospel number was quite a dance. Among the numbers, Violet’s “Surprised” and “Look at Me” were lovely and imaginative. Violet and Flick’s “Hard to Say Goodbye” showcased the pathos and sensitivity of the book. Throughout, the Tesori-Crowley team brought understated but elegant musicality to each scene. Michael Rafter kept the instrumental ensemble enveloping and energized. Violet is a show for large and intimate theaters and surely will have a long life on tour after Broadway.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at