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Violet (musical)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Violet tesori a.JPG
Original Cast Recording
MusicJeanine Tesori
LyricsBrian Crawley
BookBrian Crawley
BasisThe Ugliest Pilgrim
by Doris Betts
Productions1997 Off-Broadway
2014 Broadway
2019 Off-West End

Violet is a musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and libretto by Brian Crawley based on the short story "The Ugliest Pilgrim" by Doris Betts. It tells the story of a young disfigured woman who embarks on a journey by bus from her farm in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, all the way to Tulsa, Oklahoma in order to be healed. The musical premiered Off-Broadway in 1997 and won the Drama Critics' Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award as Best Musical.


Violet was developed at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Music Theater Conference in 1994. It premiered Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons on March 11, 1997, and closed on April 6, 1997. Directed by Susan H. Schulman with choreography by Kathleen Marshall, the cast featured Lauren Ward as Violet, Michael McElroy as Flick and Michael Park as Monty. Other cast members included Michael Medeiros, Stephen Lee Anderson, Amanda Posner and Robert Westenberg. It won the Drama Critics' Circle Award and Lucille Lortel Award as Best Musical.[1][2] In January 2003, a reunion concert was held at Playwrights Horizons, at which members of the original cast performed.[3]

The Encores! Off-Center Series held a one-night production at the New York City Center on July 17, 2013. Sutton Foster played Violet with Joshua Henry as Flick. Other cast members included Van Hughes, Austin Lesch, Anastacia McCleskey, Keala Settle, Christopher Sieber, Emerson Steele, Chris Sullivan, Rema Webb, and Paul Whitty.[4]

Violet opened on Broadway at the American Airlines Theatre in a Roundabout Theatre Company production on March 28, 2014 (previews) and on April 20, 2014 officially, with Sutton Foster starring as "Violet". The production was directed by Leigh Silverman, with musical direction by Micheal Rafter, choreography by Jeffrey Page, sets by David Zinn, costumes by Clint Ramos and lights by Mark Barton.[5] The musical had been revised and was played in one act, as was done at the Encores! July 2013 staged concert.[6] The musical closed on August 10, 2014.[7]

Violet opened Off-West End at the Charing Cross Theatre, with a run beginning January 14, 2019. It is scheduled to run until April 6, 2019. The production is directed by Shuntaro Fujita, with choreography by Cressida Carre. The musical will transfer to Tokyo and Osaka, as the first of the Charing Cross Theatre's collaborations with the Japanese Umeda Arts Theater.[8] The cast features Kaisa Hammarlund as Violet, Jay Marsh as Flick and Matthew Harvey as Monty.[9]


With a ticket, a suitcase, and a heart full of expectation, Violet Karl waits for a Greyhound bus in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. It is September 4, 1964. For a moment she sees herself as a young girl (Young Vi), carefree and singing a folk song ("Water in the Well"), before her face was horribly disfigured in an accident. A local's nosy question breaks Violet's reverie, prompting her to look forward to the healing she expects to receive from a televangelist in Tulsa that will help her transcend her provincial little town ("Surprised"). As the bus departs the station, the passengers muse as to where this journey might lead them ("On My Way").

The passengers pile off the bus to get some food at a rest stop in Kingsport, Tennessee ("M&M's"). In the grill Violet meets two poker-playing soldiers, Flick and Monty. Flick is a black sergeant in his early thirties, Monty a younger white corporal, a paratrooper. Both are bound for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Violet asks to join their game, and as they deal her in, she privately recalls how her father taught her to play ("Luck of the Draw").

Back on the bus, Monty teases Violet about a preacher he obviously has no faith in ("Question 'n' Answer"). He takes a book she carries and plays keep-away with it, which triggers Violet's memory of the day she found the catechism in her father's bedside table. Later, in the Nashville station, Flick wants to know exactly what it is that Violet wants to change. With the help of movie magazines she shows the soldiers the physical features she'd like best ("All to Pieces"), but they offend her when their attention wanders. She sits apart from them as the journey continues, recalling once again her younger self singing the folk song, which turns out to have been the moment just before the accident ("Water in the Well [Reprise]"). Violet daydreams an encounter between herself as Young Vi and the Preacher ("A Healing Touch"). As they are approaching Memphis, Flick seeks Violet out to apologize for offending her earlier. He suggests she can take care of herself without the help of the Preacher ("Let It Sing"). Stopping in Memphis overnight, the trio pass a hooker on the way to a boarding house, where Almeta the landlady resists housing a white woman until Flick slips her some money ("Anyone Would Do"). While a song plays on the radio ("Who'll Be the One [If Not Me]"), Violet dozes, seeing herself as Young Vi trying to dance with her father, then practicing dancing with the old lady from the bus. Monty appears and dances with both women in turn. Monty really has entered Violet's room. He finds her book and starts to read things Violet has written in it. She awakes and confronts him, prompting Monty to explain himself ("You're Different" or "Last Time I Came to Memphis" in the 2014 revival).

Flick enters the room with some drinks to start the night off ("Go to It"). The threesome venture out to a Beale Street music hall, where the sight of Flick dancing with Violet attracts some unfriendly attention ("Lonely Stranger"). When Monty moves in and makes a pass at Violet, Flick leaves the hall. Violet follows him back to the boarding house; the landlady interrupts a tender moment between them. In the middle of the night, Monty stumbles in through Violet's unlocked door. He wakes her, makes love to her, then falls asleep in her lap ("Lay Down Your Head").

The music hall singer, the landlady and the hooker cap the evening with a trio about unfulfilled desire ("Anyone Would Do [Reprise]"). Violet travels with the men to Fort Smith the next morning, on her way to Tulsa. Flick and Violet pledge to write each other, but Flick gets upset about the events of the night before ("Hard to Say Goodbye"). Violet escapes to the bus bathroom, where she rehearses what she will say to spurn Monty, afraid he'll otherwise reject her first. In the front of the bus Monty rehearses his own spiel, at Flick's direction. But when it comes time to part, Monty instead asks Violet to meet him on her return stop at Fort Smith ("Promise Me, Violet"). She promises nothing, cleaving to her plan, and the bus pulls away.

In Tulsa, Violet surprises the Preacher in rehearsal with his choir ("Raise Me Up"). He pawns her off on Virgil, a young assistant, and in her frustration she recovers the memory of being carried in her father's arms after the accident ("Down the Mountain"). Soon she slips away from Virgil and returns to the televangelist's empty chapel. Violet takes out her catechism and empties slips of paper she has covered with Bible quotes onto the altar. When the Preacher discovers her, she pleads with him to help invoke her miracle ("Raise Me Up [Reprise]"). When nothing comes of this desperate attempt, she demands he see her for what she is: scarred and hideous, a prodigy of pain ("Look at Me"). She looks to the heavens for a moment; the Preacher is replaced by her father. They fight, until he apologizes for what he has done ("That's What I Could Do"). Aware that something about herself has changed, Violet assumes it is her scar; she reboards the bus, convinced she has had a miracle ("Surprised [Reprise]").

When she gets out at the Fort Smith station, Monty is there waiting. His efforts at sympathy make plain to her that her face has not changed at all. Crushed, she rejects Monty's invitation to marry him before he ships out to Vietnam. Flick is also at the station and recognizes that Violet has changed, though her scar has not. He entreats her to stay with him ("Promise Me, Violet [Reprise]"). Violet's healing is complete when she takes Flick's hand and commits to a new life with him ("Bring Me to Light").[10]


Character Off-Broadway Encores! Off-Center Series Broadway
Violet Lauren Ward Sutton Foster
Monty Michael Park Van Hughes Colin Donnell
Flick Michael McElroy Joshua Henry
Father Stephen Lee Anderson Chris Sullivan Alexander Gemignani
Young Violet Amanda Posner Emerson Steele
Preacher/Bus Driver 1/Radio Singer/Bus Driver 4 Robert Westenberg Christopher Sieber Ben Davis
Old Lady/Hotel Hooker Cass Morgan Keala Settle Annie Golden
Earl/Bus Driver 2/Radio Singer/Bobby Michael Medeiros Austin Lesch

Musical numbers

  • "Opening (Water in the Well)/Surprised" – Young Vi, Violet
  • "On My Way" – Violet, Old Lady, Flick, Bus Driver, Young Vi, and Company
  • "M&M's" – Company
  • "Luck of the Draw" – Father, Young Vi, Violet, Monty, Flick
  • "Question 'n' Answer" – Monty, Violet
  • "All to Pieces" – Violet, Monty, Flick
  • "A Healing Touch" – Preacher, Violet, Gospel Choir
  • "Let it Sing" – Flick
  • "Anyone Would Do" – Hotel Hooker
  • "Who'll Be the One (If Not Me)" – Radio Singer, Radio Trio
  • "You're Different" – Monty*
  • "Lonely Stranger" – Music Hall Singer
  • "Lay Down Your Head" – Violet
  • "Anyone Would Do (Reprise)" – Music Hall Singer, Landlady, Hotel Hooker
  • "Hard to Say Goodbye" – Flick, Violet
  • "Promise Me, Violet" – Violet, Flick, Monty
  • "Raise Me Up" – Gospel Choir, Preacher, Gospel Soloist
  • "Down the Mountain" – Young Vi, Father
  • "Raise Me Up (Reprise)" – Violet, Preacher
  • "Look at Me" – Violet, Young Vi
  • "That's What I Could Do" – Father
  • "Surprised (Reprise)" – Violet and Company
  • "Promise Me, Violet (Reprise)" – Flick, Violet
  • "Bring Me to Light" – Young Vi, Flick, Violet, and Company

*Song replaced by "Last Time I Came to Memphis" in the 2014 Broadway Revival


Cast members of the 2014 Broadway revival began a new cast recording by PS Classics on April 7, 2014. The cast album was released on June 3.[11]

Chart (2014) Peak
US Billboard 200[12] 197
US Cast Albums (Billboard)[13] 3
US Independent Albums (Billboard)[14] 36

There was also a cast album of the 1997 Off-Broadway run, released by Resmiranda in October 1998.[15]

Critical reception

In his review in The New York Times, Ben Brantley wrote that the musical "raised the topicality quotient...and reconfigured its source's love story to put direct emphasis on parallels between Violet and Flick, who as a black man in the southern United States knows what it's like to be judged by your skin.... 'Violet' integrates a number of styles, from gospel and bluegrass to Memphis blues.... Ms. Tesori has a fine hand for harmonies and counterpoint.... What the show fails to do is to provide any compelling sense of character.[16]

The Broadway version opened to unanimously excellent reviews. Charles Isherwood described it as "an enduringly rewarding musical. With its tangy flavors of country, gospel, blues and honky-tonk rock, it is also her warmest, most accessible score . . . the time has come for Sutton Foster to take her place among the first rank of Broadway's musical theatre performers."[17]

Awards and nominations

Off-Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
1997 Drama Desk Award[18] Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Brian Crawley Nominated
Outstanding Music Jeanine Tesori Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Joseph Joubert and Buryl Red Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Susan H. Shulman Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Lauren Ward Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Michael McElroy Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Off-Broadway Musical Nominated
New York Drama Critics' Circle Award Best Musical Won
Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Musical Won
Obie Award Special Citation (music) Jeanine Tesori Won

Broadway production

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2014 Tony Award[19] Best Revival of a Musical Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Joshua Henry Nominated
Best Direction of a Musical Leigh Silverman Nominated
Drama Desk Award[20] Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Joshua Henry Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award[21] Outstanding Revival of a Musical (Broadway or Off-Broadway) Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Sutton Foster Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Joshua Henry Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Sutton Foster Nominated


  1. ^ "'Violet' Listing" Archived 2014-05-08 at the Wayback Machine, accessed August 9, 2013
  2. ^ Heineman, Eva. "Review" Archived 2008-01-05 at the Wayback Machine Curtain Up, accessed August 9, 2013
  3. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "On Her Way: Tesori & Crawley Musical, 'Violet', Gets NYC Reunion Concert Jan. 16-19", January 16, 2003
  4. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Sutton Foster, Joshua Henry, Van Hughes, Keala Settle, Christopher Sieber Star in One-Night-Only 'Violet' July 17" Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine, July 17, 2013
  5. ^ Purcell, Carey. "'Violet', Starring Tony Winner Sutton Foster, Will Play Broadway in March 2014" Archived 2013-12-02 at the Wayback Machine, November 25, 2013
  6. ^ Purcell, Carey. " 'Violet' Gets Cut: Retooled, One-Act Adaptation of Musical, Starring Sutton Foster, Will Play Broadway" Archived 2013-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, December 20, 2013
  7. ^ Violet Archived 2015-06-30 at the Wayback Machine playbill, accessed June 27, 2015
  8. ^ Snow, Georgia. "Jeanine Tesori’s 'Violet' to have UK premiere at Charing Cross Theatre", November 9, 2018
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Cast Set for U.K. Debut of 'Violet' at Charing Cross Theatre" Playbill, December 7, 2018
  10. ^ Digital Booklet 0 Violet (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
  11. ^ Blank, Matthew."PHOTO CALL: Sutton Foster and the Company of 'Violet' Head Into the Recording Studio" Archived 2014-04-13 at the Wayback Machine, April 8, 2014
  12. ^ "Original Broadway Cast Recording Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  13. ^ "Cast Albums". Billboard. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  14. ^ "Original Broadway Cast Recording Chart History (Independent Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved 18 June 2014.
  15. ^ Jones, Kenneth; Ku, Andrew; Viagas, Robert (Oct 15, 1998). "Violet Cast Album Getting Less Obscure; Now in Some Stores". Playbill. Retrieved Jul 22, 2020.
  16. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Lessons About Life In a Quest for Beauty", The New York Times, March 12, 1997, p. C12
  17. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review/Theater; Longing For a Facial Scar to Simply Vanish" Archived 2016-11-26 at the Wayback MachineThe New York Times, from New York Times on the Web, April 22, 2014
  18. ^ Drama Desk Awards2006 - Winners 2001
  19. ^ Gans, Andrew. "68th Annual Tony Awards Nominations Announced; 'Gentleman's Guide' Leads the Pack" Archived 2014-05-30 at the Wayback Machine, April 29, 2014
  20. ^ Gans, Andrew. "2014 Annual Drama Desk Awards Nominations Announced; 'Gentleman's Guide' Earns 12 Nominations" Archived 2014-07-18 at the Wayback Machine, April 25, 2014
  21. ^ "Outer Critics Circle 2013-14 Season" Archived 2014-05-12 at the Wayback Machine, May 12, 2014

External links

This page was last edited on 15 September 2021, at 02:55
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