VA Rep’s ‘Violet’ offers powerful vocal talent and story telling
A polite and friendly usher stood at the door reminding patrons the musical Violet was an hour and forty minutes long with no intermission. So I rushed to the bathroom and purchased a soda. In it for the long haul.
Only it wasn’t long. And it wasn’t a haul. If time flies when you’re having fun, then doubly so when you’re transported to another time and place through the magic of music and a good story.
At its heart, Violet is a simple story of a young woman who seeks to be transformed after being emotionally and physically scarred by a tragic accident. And it’s a love story of two people who grow to see past the superficial into the soul.
Violet (Christie Jackson) leaves behind small town North Carolina and places all her hopes on a televangelist in Oklahoma who promises healing.
As Violet journeys by bus, she meets two soldiers – Flick (Josh Marin) and Monty (Matt Polson) – who may be called up to serve in Vietnam.
Both soldiers are drawn to her. Monty to her frailty; he perceives her as an easy target for his charm and womanizing. Flick, meanwhile, sees past the woman’s disfigurement to the person inside.
Young Vi (Sophia Bunnel) and Father (Joe Pabst) beautifully tell a simultaneous story of a father raising a young daughter alone after the death of his wife. Through Young Vi and Father we learn how Violet came to be maimed, and how she works to forgive.
Bunnel and Pabst have an on-stage rapport that is endearing and moving.
One of the most magical moments of the show for me came through the eyes of an audience member. I was sitting in the same row as Bunnel’s parents. Seeing her father’s tears as he watched his daughter on stage brought me to tears. Those kinds of moments only happen with live theatre.
Jackson’s voice was exquisite with the range to effortlessly go from achingly tender to fierce and powerful. And I think I could be very happy listening to Marin sing me the yellow pages. The duo created a very special onstage chemistry.
The job of a critic can be difficult at times. This is one of those shows that grabbed me in the heart, and that’s the place from which I have to write my review. The music, the story, the main actors and the supporting cast were wonderful.
And the set, and the musical direction, and the costuming. Yep, loved all those things, too. Kim Fox and her on-stage live band was tight and on point throughout.
Kudos to everyone involved in this enchanting production.
Perhaps the usher should have handed out boxes of tissue along with the friendly reminder to use the restroom before the show.
Violet, presented by Cadence Theatre Company in partnership with Virginia Rep, is a 2017 Acts of Faith Festival entry running through March 11, 2017 at Virginia Rep’s Theatre Gym.
Photo by Jason Collins Photography
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
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