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BWW Review: VIOLET at Town Hall Arts Center

While Violet may appear to be in new musical in some theatergoers' eyes, the show actually has been around for a couple decades. Making its start Off-Broadway in 1997, Violet was considered a revival for its 2014 Broadway run starring Sutton Foster. Adapted from Doris Betts' story "The Ugliest Pilgrim," the musical has a book and lyrics by Brian Crawley with music by Jeanine Tesori (whose work can currently be heard on Broadway in Fun Home).

Violet is currently playing at Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton, where the venue's intimacy lends a cozy charm to the production.

It's the 1960s, in the heart of a cultural revolution. A young woman, Violet (Ellen Kaye), is making a journey by bus from her home in North Carolina to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she hopes an extravagant preacher from television will cure the accidental ax-wound that's marred her face since childhood. Along the way, Violet meets a couple poker-playing soldiers, Monty (Chas Lederer) and Flick (Randy Chalmers), and a few other characters who seem to be taken aback by her scar. Throughout the show, Violet has flashbacks to important moments of her childhood with her father (Scott McClean; a fervent Rebecca Hyde plays Violet's younger self.)

Director Nick Sugar brought forth much of the show's heart with subtlety. In a smart move to keep Violet's character without a blemish (or any makeup, really), it's easier see her character for the beauty that's on the inside. You could quickly forget about her scar several times throughout the show and just see a hopeful young woman on a journey.

Kaye is a vibrant Violet. Her choices are delicate and understated, giving the character quintessential humanity. Kaye makes it easy for the audience to understand every emotion Violet feels, even if the other characters on stage don't quite get it yet. Her unique vocals add a gorgeous tone to the lyrics.

From even the smallest roles, the vocals are so good in this production it's nearly exhausting. Chalmers' voice is buttery smooth and will melt you just the same. Anna High leads a gospel choir that will quite literally take you to church and make an atheist want to hang around for more. Even Hyde's Young Violet has a fierce presence that boosts her to the forefront among seasoned pros. Not a single cast member goes unnoticed as they tackle a score rich with bluegrass, gospel and the kind of music that makes you feel a mixture of determination and warmth.

McClean plays Violet's father with a spirit as strong as his rich baritone voice. A hilarious feature brings Town Hall favorite Margie Lamb from an old woman to a hotel hooker, both which she plays with zealous wit. Zach Stailey gives passion and compassion to a televangelist I didn't expect to like.

There is a spectacular amount of beauty in Town Hall's Violet, and some of that beauty goes beyond the visuals of a striking set design by Tina Anderson and light design by Seth Alison. The five-piece band, directed by Donna Debreceni, is just big enough capture the essence of the score's vibrantly layered instrumentals. Costumes by Linda Morken capture an era.

But the true beauty of Town Hall's Violet is something you just have to feel.

Violet plays Littleton's Town Hall Arts Center through Feb 7. Tickets can be reserved by calling the box office at 303-794-2787 ext. 5 (Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 1 hour prior to showtime) or online at Group discounts available for purchasing ten or more tickets. Ten $10 value seats will be made available on a first-come, first-served basis one-hour prior to each published curtain time. Show times are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. (2 p.m. on Jan 30) and Sundays at 2 p.m. (6:30 p.m. on Jan 24). A 12:30 p.m. performance on Feb. 7 has been canceled due to the Denver Broncos probably winning the Super Bowl.

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From This Author - Chris Arneson