Violet: A Journey To Musical Salvation
After taking home three Sydney Theatre Awards (Best Production, Best Direction and Best Musical Direction) from their Hayes Theatre run, this highly acclaimed Australian production of Violet opened last night at Melbourne’s Chapel off Chapel to a well-deserved standing ovation!
Violet is a story about journeys. The journey of a small-town girl to see a television preacher. The journey of two soldiers to Fort Smith. And a journey towards self-acceptance overcoming a disfiguring facial scar from a childhood incident. But it is the audience who goes on the greatest journey at the hands of this impressively talented Australian cast!
With music from Tony Award-winning Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Shrek the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie) and a libretto by Brian Crawley, Violet follows the journey of a woman crossing the country in search of divine intervention. Facially scarred as a child in an accident at the hands of her father, Violet travels through the beauty-obsessed and racially-tense American South in the 1960s. While she sets out with the aim of discovering salvation at the hands of a preacher who could cure her disfigurement, she discovers that true beauty is not always in the eye of the beholder.
Rob Guest Endowment Award winner Samantha Dodemaide (Sweet Charity, Anything Goes) leads the cast in the title role of Violet, a role which rarely sees her leave the stage for the entire show. She commands attention from the entire audience appearing on stage as they find their seats and leading the company in the first big number of the show ‘On My Way’. Playing this character is no easy feat as she toes the line between a rather vain woman obsessed with her scar while also grabbing the world with both hands and chasing after her greatest dreams. Samantha manages to bring out the loveable side to Violet while still conveying the torment she feels inside in a performance to rival Sutton Foster – who originated the role in the 2014 Broadway production.
Supporting Samantha is a phenomenally talented collection of Australian performers. Steve Danielsen (Legally Blonde, Wicked) and Barry Conrad (The X Factor) accompany Violet on her journey as the two poker-playing soldiers and Barry manages to steal the limelight away with his performance of ‘Let It Sing’ proving that he needs to do more Australian musical theatre. Deidre Rubenstein provides some much needed comic relief as a past-her-used-by-date lady of the night and Jack O’Reily truly impresses the audience with some syrupy-sweet country vocals in ‘Who’ll Be The One’.
But the standout moment which stops the show comes from Cherine Peck (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Lion King). As church performer Lula Buffington, Cherine lifts the roof with a soulful performance of ‘Raise Me Up’ that had the audience cheering and hollering from their seats!
The onstage action was supported by an impeccable band that nailed every style from country and bluegrass to blues and gospel as well as a lighting and sound design which managed to direct the audience’s attention away from any onstage scene changes creating a seamless experience.
Violet is Blue Saint Production’s first full-scale musical, and if this is the standard of their first production then this company is going to be behind some of the most exciting musicals in Australia’s future.
Violet is playing at Chapel off Chapel for a strictly limited season until March 20. Make sure you book your tickets now to see this incredible new Australian production at www.chapeloffchapel.com.au