Violet at Charing Cross Theatre
After winning multiple accolades and being nominated for four Tony Awards after its Broadway revival, Violet makes its UK debut at the Charing Cross Theatre. With many catchy tunes, likeable characters and clever dialogue, the production promises to be a success – but an overall weak storyline which leaves little room for surprise makes it little more than an enjoyable pastime to stock up on some earworms. Ultimately, it’s a moving feel-good musical emphasising life’s little pleasures.
Set in 1964 between North Carolina and Oklahoma, the show explores the journey of facially disfigured Violet (Kaisa Hammarlund), who believes that a televangelist (Kenneth Avery-Clark) can heal the scar which was inflicted on her by her father (Keiron Crook). On the bus, she meets soldiers Monty (Matthew Harvey) – a rude and privileged would-be stud – and Flick (Jay Marsh) – his black friend who is still searching for his purpose in life. Throughout the production, there are several flashbacks to Violet’s childhood as she re-encounters her past while growing increasingly friendly with the men on the way to her would-be salvation.
With minimalistic set design by Morgan Large and Director Shuntaro Fujita, the focus is shifted onto the cast – and it really lets them shine. While the musical score by Jeanine Tesori isn’t entirely original, it is extremely well-done and almost invites the audience to sing along, and the singers themselves are dazzling. In particular, Marsh in Let it Sing and Hammarlund throughout the whole runtime give a pristine performance which will stick with the audience for months to come.
Sadly, the excellent quality in music and visuals cannot save the ultimately bland and predictable script. While the writing is witty and the setting fascinating – exploring some racial issues in the USA in 1964 – the ending is already given away within the first 15 minutes. We know the preacher won’t be able to heal Violet’s scar, forcing her to find inner strength and beauty to overcome her outer disfigurement. We know that she’ll end up with Flick, whose honest integrity runs much deeper than Monty’s superficiality.
While this flaw prevents Violet from being an utterly fantastic musical, the show nevertheless guarantees an evening of superb entertainment through its dialogue and catchy musical numbers, proving to be a wonderful production that will keep everyone satisfied.
Photos: Scott Rylander
Violet is at Charing Cross Theatre from 14th January until 6th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Take a first look at Violet on Broadway here: