REVIEWED BY: MATTHEW PERTA HIGHLY RECOMMENDED Photo Credit: Ross Zentner Sizzling! Sensational! Sexy! A production that will be…
Skylight Music Theatre Presents Milwaukee Premiere of Violet
Skylight Music Theatre opens its 2016-17 season with the Milwaukee premiere of the award-winning musical Violet. Featuring a score by acclaimed composer Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, this powerful and tender musical runs Friday, September 30 through Sunday, October 16, 2016, in the Cabot Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center (158 N. Broadway).
After an accident leaves Violet with a disfiguring facial scar, she travels by bus through the 1964 segregated South to meet a televangelist who she believes can heal her. Along the way, she meets an African-American soldier whose love helps her discover the true meaning of beauty.
Stage director Sheri Williams Pannell said she sees Violet’s journey as both a physical and spiritual one.
“It’s about transformation that comes from a place deep inside,” said Pannell, who directed last season’s production of Crowns. “Violet’s journey ultimately taps into the power of unconditional love and becomes a musical about hope. You walk out feeling better not only about who you are, but about humanity.”
From Off-Broadway to Broadway
Originally produced Off-Broadway in 1997, Violet won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical and the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical. The show moved to Broadway in 2014 and received four Tony Award nominations, including a Best Actress nomination for Sutton Foster, who played Violet. Her acclaimed performance became a career-redefining role for the actress who had first made a name for herself in musicals such as Anything Goes and Thoroughly Modern Millie.
Tony Award-Winning Composer Jeanine Tesori
Tesori, who won the 2015 Tony for Fun Home and wrote the music for Shrek the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie and Caroline, or Change, has created a heartfelt score of soaring Broadway anthems fueled by country, gospel, blues, folk and honky-tonk rock. The New York Times said the music for Violet “can stand along with her best work,” and “is also perhaps her warmest and most accessible.”
Violet is inspired by the short story, “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” by Doris Betts and was adapted by Crawley, author of the musical A Little Princess.
As Violet travels by bus from North Carolina to Oklahoma to meet a faith healer, she encounters strangers who react to her horrific scar as well as those who see beyond it. Along the way, she befriends two soldiers, Flick, who is black, and Monty, who is white.
“This show tackles our prejudices and fears about our differences,” said Pannell. “Both Violet and Flick know what it is like to be judged based on appearance. Their story, and the show as a whole, demonstrates how love and miracles often manifest in unexpected ways.”
Allie Babich, who plays Violet, and Lamar Jefferson, who plays Flick, will make their Skylight debuts. Babich, a recent graduate from University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater BFA Actor Training Program, performed at First Stage through high school. Jefferson, now based in Minneapolis, was an acting intern at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and has performed at the Guthrie Theater. Alex Mace, who plays Monty, was last seen at Skylight as Berger in Hair (2014) and was also in the national tour of Hair.
Also making their Skylight debuts are the two actresses who will alternate playing the role of young Violet, Kylee Hennes and Ella Kleefisch.
‘Violet’ Kicks Off 2016-17 Season
Violet marks the kick-off to the new season at Skylight, and according to Interim Artistic Director Ray Jivoff, this show captures the essence of the season idea: “When words fail, music speaks.”
“When I saw Violet two years ago, I was not only struck by the brilliant music, but how perfect this story-driven, intimate ensemble piece would be for Skylight,” said Jivoff.
“In light of the social unrest going on right now in our town, it is particularly timely that this musical deals with racial and social issues. I am reminded that as a society, the only way we can move forward is to share our stories. Violet is not just a black story or a white story or a young woman’s story, it is a personal and human story about race, gender, beauty and faith,” he said. “We are excited to bring this phenomenal musical to our city and our audiences.”
The music director for Violet will be Anne Van Deusen, who has played in the pit for numerous past Skylight productions and music directed throughout the area.
This production of Violet reunites Pannell with two of the cast members from Crowns (2016), Cynthia Cobb, who plays the Music Hall singer and the role of Almeta, and Tasha McCoy, who plays Lulu.
Adam Stoner, a Milwaukee-based visual artist, will be Violet’s scenic designer. He is one of the many distinguished artists to graduate from Skylight Music Theatre’s props apprenticeship program who have continued on to careers in the arts.
Performances of Violet are Friday, September 30 through Sunday, October 16 in the Cabot Theatre, Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in the Historic Third Ward of Milwaukee.
Violet is suitable for audiences ages 12 and up.
Skylight Insights: In-depth discussions with directors and special guests take place one hour before every Wednesday and Sunday performance.
For more information visit www.skylightmusictheatre.org, email [email protected], or call the Box Office at (414) 291-7800.
Tickets & Box Office
Tickets are $25 – $75 (plus tax and fees) and can be purchased in person at the Broadway Theatre Center Box Office or by calling (414) 291-7800, Monday – Saturday, from noon – 6 p.m., and two hours prior to each performance. Tickets may be purchased online at www.skylightmusictheatre.org.
Group discounts are available for parties of 10 or more. Call Skylight’s Group Sales Manager at (414) 299-4964 to plan a group event.
For information on discounts for students and seniors, call the Box Office (414) 291-7800 or email [email protected]
About Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight Music Theatre’s mission since 1959: To bring the full spectrum of music theatre works to a wide and diverse audience in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition. Skylight presents productions “Skylight Style” – bringing fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage but with the audience as well. The beautiful, intimate Cabot Theatre allows audiences to feel close to the powerful emotions on stage.