Friday, March 8, 2019

"Violet" ☼ ☼

There are strong moments in Jeanine Tesori and Brian Cawley's ”Violet.” The cast works hard and there are spots where it succeeds admirably. The gospel feel of some of Tesori’s music brings excitement to the theater and there are several excellent performances.

However, for a show written in 1997 about a bus ride taken across the South in 1962, “Violet” needs you to channel your Inner Broadway. Only there can one find such happy, diverse and inclusive characters who are able to sing and dance while celebrating a love story that defies the imagination. If you are able to put yourself into this rarified space of suspended disbelief, you will enjoy the ride.

The standout for us in this cast is 12-year old Miranda Long, who plays young Vi. She has a stage presence that matches her character and a lively, piercing voice, remarkable for someone this young.

We found the rest of the cast doing their best to inject soul into forgettable songs. Juliana Lustenader plays Violet as a lost woman with diminished intelligence. She is dealing with a physical impediment that the audience cannot see, and she gets herself into relationships with two servicemen, John-David Randle as Flick and Jack O'Reilly as Monty, neither of which makes the slightest bit of sense.

Clay David's Preacher is either evil or sympathetic, we're not sure which. Either one would do. Most of the excitement of this show is generated from side characters, such as Tanika Baptiste, April Deutschle and Elizabeth Jones, who sing as if they mean it.

If you like gospel-ish music, which we do, you can tap your toes and pretend. That's not such a bad thing.


The San Francisco Theater Blog awards "Violet" Two Stars. This is below the Mendoza Line (See sidebar at right for explanation of ratings). For us, unless the music is over-the-top spectacular, a plot must have at least one foot in reality. The cast of "Violet" does the best it can with an old bus that could use a significant tune-up.

The Alcazar Theatre
650 Geary Street, San Francisco
Through March 17

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