Violet (Sutton Foster) embraces the spotlight.
The scars we bear can sometimes go deeper than the skin that shows them. What you see in the mirror can resonate down to your innermost feelings; sometimes, those markings become what defines you. Cosmetic and plastic surgery industries base their businesses on hiding or healing the blemishes that, in the eyes of the beholder, take up their entire reflection. However, there are times when no amount of external influence can remedy a person’s tarnished perception of themselves.
Violet tackles this subject with unrelenting veracity. The Broadway revival tells the story of the titular heroine, who as a young girl endured a horrific accident on her father’s farm which left her face permanently disfigured. As a young adult, Violet (Sutton Foster) discovers an evangelical preacher on TV who claims to have the ability to heal through the power of God. She ventures across the country to seek his help and alleviate her deformity.
The production’s director, Leigh Silverman, received her first Tony nomination for her work on Violet. Silverman said she was excited to work with such daring and adventurous material, and that the message of the musical was right up her alley.
“I think Violet is about finding your own past,” Silverman said. “It’s about learning to overcome the different scars you have, real or metaphoric, and learning to love yourself. It’s about finding out what is special about yourself and letting that be the thing you show the world, as opposed to feeling shut down because of what you imagine, and to be your scar that you carry around.”
Violet boards a bus to take her on a journey to the Oklahoma preacher, but in route to her destination she finds much more than she ever bargained for. She befriends two soldiers, Flick (Joshua Henry) and Monty (Alexander Gemignani), who both gradually liberate the person Violet has locked away behind the veil of her scarred face.
Foster doesn’t don any makeup to simulate Violet’s deformity; instead, it’s up to the audience to imagine what Violet sees, and Foster makes this task easy through her powerfully painful portrayal of the character. She displays evident agony, while simultaneously lighting up the stage with a wide smile and virtuoso vocal performance. As good as Foster’s singing is, she is only one character in a sensational cast; Henry delivers impeccable melodies that inspire awe from the entire audience, and the preacher’s congregation offers all the thrill of an over-the-top procession.
Silverman said Violet has taken on a sense of urgency and real importance, and it leaves members of the audience open to a personal journey unlike any other show open right now.
“Violet is such a beautiful story because it can be a metaphor for a time in our life where we were damaged, and the ways in which we want to–and should–fight to overcome, and find out how to feel ourselves,” Silverman said. “We can’t look to other people to do that, instead we have to find it in ourselves.”
The power of Violet comes from its relatable subject matter. Who hasn’t wished they could live in the skin of someone famous, someone more glamourous, or someone more beautiful? Even if we have something we’d like to change about ourselves, that doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there ready to embrace who we are, flaws and all. Violet is an incredible journey to the center of what makes us human, and to what drives our desires.
– Alex Falls