Photo by Don Kellogg

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Originally produced for a brief run at Playwrights Horizons in 1997, Violet is seeing a new incarnation at Roundabout's American Airlines Theatre with a star as bright as the moon in a dark night sky, Sutton Foster.

The original production did not run very long, which is not surprising.  This incarnation seems to be doing a bit better despite the sparse sets and limited choreography.

Make no mistake, Sutton Foster, Broadway's darling, brings innocence with power to the production.  Her supporting cast is tremendously talented and also cannot be ignored either.  As a matter of fact, her co-star, Joshua Henry, has, what one might say, is "the num-bah" of the entire show, bringing the audience nearly to it's feet early on.

However, despite my high level of engagement and enjoyment, I was not moved to put this show any where near the winning slot for Best Musical.  Most noticeably, the show has what I would call the Encores! staging model (indeed, the show transferred from Encores! after it's summer 2013 run there).  While semi-staging and limited choreography work for a one-night- only run at NY City Center, it certainly has no place on a permanent Broadway stage where you are paying, literally, for a creative team to choreograph, build sets, and move the actors beyond a small rectangle in from of an orchestra/band taking up way to much space on the stage.

Significant financial considerations aside (clearly Roundabout is poor these days and can't afford to do what it used to do - or they've just become a sellout to cheap entertaining shows at the lowest cost), the show packs a powerful message about finding out who you are inside and seeing beyond the surface.   This applies aptly to both Mr. Henry (Flick) and Ms Foster (Violet).

Emmerson Steele (Young Violet) is a treasure to behold, blending perfectly with Ms Foster and the entire aesthetic.  I saw the understudy for Monty (Austin Lesch) and I'm happy to report his performance (and handsome looks) was magnificent.  Alexander Gemignani was also perfectly cast as the fuzzy bear-like mountain-man father of Violet.

Best Musical, I hope not.  But certainly a show worth seeing with a delightful score and performances as good as they get.