Friday, May 9, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Violet with Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theater

What's it All About?
It's the revival of a 1997 musical Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts which follows the story of a young Christian woman, Violet (Sutton Foster), whose face is disfigured when her father's ax blade accidentally flies in her direction, and her journey for a miracle to make her beautiful. The story, told somewhat confusingly, shows various scenes, not always in chronological order, with Violet as a young girl (Emerson Steele, who indeed looks like a little Foster) growing up with her father (Alexander Gemiignani) and as a woman on her way to seek the help of a TV evangelist (Ben Davis), movie magazines in hand, for quick reference to what is considered beautiful.

On the bus trip from North Carolina to Oklahoma, she encounters a variety of characters including two soldiers who alter the course of her life. Monty (Colin Donnell) is the dashing, knows-he's-handsome guy she becomes romantically entangled with and Flick (Joshua Henry), who offers her friendship, and maybe a better future, even if their bi-racial relationship is sure to cause problems in the South of 1964.

What are the highlights?

  • The disfigurement is not depicted, but imagined.
  • Foster, always a delight, is in full voice here, singing some very lovely tunes by Tesori, who also incorporates country and gospel sounds into the score (Fans of Foster's CD "Wish" will recognize "On My Way.") The actress gives a moving, vibrant portrait of a woman looking for her self worth.There's a terrific scene with themes of forgiveness and reconciliations as well.
  • There's a terrific gospel number performed by Lula Buffington (RemaWebb) and company as part of television healing service and quite a lot scripture throughout the musical. 
  • Joshua Henry brings his dreamy voice to the role as well as a layered sensitivity. His rendition of "Let it sing" brought an extended burst of applause that almost qualified as a showstopper.
  • Simple sets (designed by David Zinn) that don't get in the way of the story telling.
  • A very talented cast well directed by Silverman.
What are the Lowlights?
  • The book is very weak, leaving lots of questions unanswered, like why the womanizing Monty would be attracted to the unfortunate Violet, or why she and the two soldiers feel a bond of friendship so strongly and so quickly, except to give the plot its impetus. The disjointed scenes make that plot difficult to stay with at times.
More information:
Violet runs through Aug. 10 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC.
Runtime: one hour, 45 minutes, no intermission

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Blood
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics and situations
-- God's name taken in vain

1 comment:

Theatertimes said...

Love seeing the name Gemignani again. I hadn't heard of Alex before, but I see he was born during the Broadway run of Sweeney Todd! Love Sutton Foster, too. Wish I could see this. Thanks for the review.
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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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