Thursday 26 June 2014

Violet - Broadway Cast

Original Broadway Cast. Composer: Jeanine Tesori.

Back in 1998 I bought the Off-Broadway cast recording of an unknown, but critically acclaimed, musical called Violet.

I'd never heard of the show, or the composer. If I'm honest, I just bough it to bring an order I was placing up to a certain amount. Poor Violet.
Upon receiving the CD I listened to it a few times over the first few days of owning it. I really enjoyed it; but nothing really stood out. Nothing had me humming, or singing along. It was a nice recording and, as such, one I was happy to keep.

Then, while trawling through the Forthcoming Releases on, I saw that there was to be a new Deluxe 2CD Broadway cast recording, starring the incredible Sutton Foster.
But, given my underwhelming response to the 1998 recording (once again: poor Violet) you're possibly wondering why I would be interested.

That's easy!
First: In the interim composer Jeanine Tesori had risen to much success with excellent shows like Caroline, or Change and the amazing Shrek: The Musical.
Second: Sutton Foster. Sutton's performances in Shrek: The Musical, Little Women, Thoroughly Modern Millie have literally blown me away. She's a marvel.
Third: The reviews for the show were great and apparently the score had received a major revision with new songs and orchestrations.

It was all too tempting. So, I pre-ordered it.

I'm so glad I did.

Violet is the story of a young woman travel across America to visit a faith healer, in the hopes that he will be able to make her beautiful. As a child, Violet, fell into an axe, which split her face open. She's lived with the scar, and the stares of everyone around her, ever since.
On the bus she meets an array of people from all walks of life, including two soldiers. One black, one white - both of whom take a shine to Violet, despite her scar and her attitude.
Eventually, she does get to see the preacher - but, of course, it doesn't work. But, it doesn't really matter as she's fallen in love along the way, and that's all that matters.

It's a simple, beautifully executed story. The songs cover a range of styles from jazz to blues, via bluegrass, swing and broadway. Yet, somehow, the show gels perfectly.
Personally, I think this is in no small part, down to the fact that Sutton Foster is a revelation. This is a career defining performance (not that she needs one). Her rough ways, prickly personality, soft underneath approach to the character of Violet is genius and her voice aches with pain, passion, wit and warmth.

A truly beautiful musical that will probably never see the light of day in the UK. Why? Well, in my opinion, it's because the subject matter is not something us Brits can really associate with. We don't really buy into the whole faith healing preacher deal, so I don't think we'd really be able to suspend disbelief.
I might be unfairly judging my fellow countrymen, it's just my opinion.

For me, Violet, just entered my Top 100 musicals with the swing of an axe and the heart of a true star.

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