Photos – Ben Fon
Based on a short story (The Ugliest Pilgrim) by Doris Betts, Violet the musical is a delightful small-scale stage adaptation that produces a greater effect than anticipated.
Set in the American South of the early 1960s, the story traces the journey a young woman undertakes, hoping to heal a physical scar via divine intervention. Amidst the racial tensions and prejudices of the time, Violet encounters an assortment of characters, including two soldiers, one an African American, who, both vying for her affections, change the course of her life.
Two storylines, one the present bus journey, and the second, a series of flashbacks to her younger self and her relationship with her father, are constantly, and expertly intertwined.
Tony award-winner Jeanine Tesori (music) and Brian Crawley (lyrics and book) have created a beautiful piece that has much to say about how we all judge each other and overlook what is actually important.
Tesori's music, especially, is a highlight, constantly jumping across genres, from folk and country, to gospel and blues.
Acclaimed actor Mitchell Butel, has turned his hand to directing this project, and has succeeded in bringing together a production that is carefully staged, shaping some lovely performances from a talented cast. His direction is crisp and the focus is spot on for the performance's 110 minutes.
Sam Dodemaide is truly wonderful as Violet, giving a fresh, strong performance as the feisty young woman determined to see her quest fulfilled.
So is Luisa Scrofani as the younger Violet, appearing in the flashback scenes that are so integral to the storyline. Both these performers show the depth and range of their dramatic and musical skills.
Steve Danielsen (Monty) and Barry Conrad (Flick) give strong, believable performances as the two soldier buddies. Conrad's rendition of Let it Sing is a show highlight.
Another standout is Cherine Peck (Lulu / Almeta) who has a show-stopping moment with the gospel anthem Raise Me Up.
Deidre Rubenstein, Damien Bermingham, Jordan Pollard, Jack O'Riley, Ryan Gonzalez and Katie Elle Reeve (another great singing talent) all contribute to the flavor of characters and strength of the piece, and each performer has moments to shine.
Simon Greer's set design, Lucetta Stapleton's costumes, Ross Graham's lighting and Amy Campbell's choreography all ensure that the production works well in a smaller space, with an authentic period look.
Martine Wengrow leads an accomplished 6-piece band off stage, aided by Kelvin Gedye's sound design.
This independent production of Violet is a fine example of not only the high standard of musical theatre works out there that only occasionally reach our stages, but of the strong calibre of performers and creative talent we have that lovingly bring these shows to life.
Blue Saint Productions presents
Violet – The Musical
music Jeanine Tesori | libretto Brian Crawley
Director Mitchell Butel
Venue: Chapel Off Chapel
Dates: 3 – 20 March 2016
Tickets: $59 – $54