A Glorious and Uplifting Tale
By Bradley Storer
A facially-scarred young woman taking a bus trip through the American South to see a faith-healing preacher in the company of two soldiers who slowly bring her out of her shell – on paper it doesn’t sound like the typical Broadway musical, does it? But Violet, with a terrific book by Brian Crawley and an incredible score by Tony Award winner Jeanine Tesori, is a glorious and uplifting tale that makes a great case for the continuing relevance of the musical as an art form.
Sam Dodemaide as the eponymous protagonist is a knockout. Violet’s emotional arc across the 105 minute and intermission-less piece is massive, requiring enormous commitment and stamina to make work. Dodemaide navigates the journey of this closed off and isolated loner through joy, friendship, hope, heartbreak and ultimately healing catharsis with magnificent emotional clarity and heart-rending transparency, with her bright silvery belt cutting through Tesori’s wide ranging styles of music with ease. Luisa Scrofani as Violet’s younger self, who haunts and pervades the stage action, matches so well with Dodemaide that it is easy to forget that the two aren’t actually the same person. Violet’s father is ably played by Damien Bermingham; the complex relationship between the two communicated with palpable reality.
As Flick, the African-American soldier whose encouragement and empathy spark Violet’s own transformation, Barry Conrad has a warm, gentle stage presence and a lovely pop voice that shows remarkable flexibility – however, I felt his big number ‘Let It Sing’ lacked the gospel fire and joy to really make it land, leaving it merely an exercise in riffing without a real emotional heart. Steve Danielsen as fellow soldier Monty fares better; bringing an edge of sexual charisma and danger to his character that contrasts and balances Conrad’s gentler presence nicely.
The ensemble as a whole are wonderful, playing a wide range of characters across the story with small moments that showcase each of them to marvellous effect. Standouts are hard to pick, but Katie Elle Reeve as a rock and roll music hall singer thrills with an incredible and powerful voice, Deidre Rubenstein does fantastic work as both the elderly Mabel and the hilariously voracious prostitute Alice. As the gospel singer Almeta, Cherine Peck brings the house down with her number ‘Raise Me Up’, truly bringing a sense of religious devotion and joy to the role.
The entire creative team, led by director Mitchell Butel, have done a truly spectacular job of rendering this outstanding musical, a must-see for any lovers of the modern musical or anyone looking to be entertained and uplifted in the same evening.
Venue: Chapel off Chapel, 12 Lt Chapel St
Dates: 3rd – 20th March, 2016
Time: 8pm Tues – Sat, 2pm Sat, 6pm Sunday
Tickets: $59 Full, $54 Concession, $49 Group 10+
Bookings: www.chapeloffchapel.com.au, phone 8290 7000, or at the door