Violet tells the story of a girl searching for something to make her feel complete, yet ultimately along the way she learns to love herself. It’s a story we can all connect with in some way or another, and its powerful message is driven home with a meaningful emotional impact.
Hayes Theatre Co has a knack for bringing contemporary shows to a local audience hungry for musicals with meaning. Blue Saint Production’s Violet, is another success in a trend of innovative portrayals of unique and important stories.
Violet is set in the American South in 1960s, against a backdrop of racial tensions. It follows the journey of Violet Karl, a young women seeking to rid herself of a scar she gained in a childhood accident. She travels across America, in the hope of being healed by a TV preacher; yearning to be healed from her facial disfiguration, but more deeply needing to be rid of her self-loathing and shame.
The story refreshingly focuses on Violet and her journey to understand and accept herself. Whilst there are romantic elements to the plot, the love triangle that eventuates is not the central concern of the book; rather it serves to further the central narrative of Violet’s journey towards self-acceptance.
The plot itself is not groundbreaking, it’s no surprise the true journey Violet must undertake is one of self-discovery and emotional healing, rather than the false hope of physical healing. Yet despite its slightly predictable nature, the overflowing heart and the captivating score keep you engaged throughout every moment.
Violet is a simple show, reliant on the strength of Jeanine Tesori’s robust score; a pleasant mélange of gospel, country and blues, Brian Crawley’s impactful book and lyrics which are full of depth, and the talent of the small cast performing it, under clear direction. Violet has all the right elements; a cohesive and talented cast led by the ambitious and feisty Samantha Dodemaide as Violet, under the innovative and insightful direction of Mitchell Butel and solid musical direction by Lucy Bermingham.
Amy Campbell’s joyful choreography hits just the right tone; most often it subtly interweaves into the story and only serves to enhance the plot rather than detracting action. And it has its moments to shine, particularly in ‘Raise Me Up’, a comical and joyful number that filled the theatre with its effervescence. Simon Greer’s attractively meek set effectively encapsulates Violet’s journey across the American countryside. Aided by Ross Graham’s simple yet poignant lighting design, the audience is carried between scenes, settings and moods seamlessly. Lucetta Stapleton’s costume design encapsulates the vibe of 1960s America and brings a unique flare to each character.
Samantha Dodemaide shines in the title role. Violet is a strong willed, ambitious, resilient woman. Dodemaide brings a vulnerability to this broken yet courageously self-assured character, all the while gleaming with Violet’s hopeful optimism. Violet is a complex character who can’t always articulate her own thoughts but in Dodemaide’s hands, her journey to self-acceptance is fascinating to watch unfold.
The rest of the cast does well to meet the standards set by Dodemaide. Steve Danielsen as Monty walks the line between brash, lady’s man and caring friend well. Barry Conrad as the African American sergeant Flick is compassionate, and sensitive when needed, and at other times bold and outspoken. Violet and Flick share the immediate connection of being an outsider, both understand the prejudices and opinions others make based on appearance. Their relationship demands emotional investment from the outset, and watching it develop through moments of tension and harmony is gripping.
The cast is vocally impressive and cohesively unites their energy and attack to carry this show. Each ensemble member rises to the challenge, and finds their moment to excel. The show relies heavily on younger Violet and her relationship with her father; Damien Bermingham (as the father) and Luisa Scrofani (as young Violet) do not disappoint. A lot of insight into Violet’s insecurities is established by young Violet, and Scrofani excels in her professional debut, bringing naivety and raw honesty to young Violet. Bermingham is strong as Violet’s father, portraying his deep grief and guilt over Violet’s injury, behind the façade of a tough father.
Butel’s sharp direction brings focus and clear intent to every moment. The cast all deliver and fulfil the demands of a show of such emotional stakes, bringing joy and soul to this production.