Charing Cross Theatre, London
14th January - 6th April 2019

Based off ‘The Ugliest Pilgrim’, a short story by Doris Betts, Violet is a Broadway musical with Book & Lyrics by Brian Crawley which follows the story of Violet Karl (Kaisa Hammarlund) who goes on a journey from the state of Tulsa, right the way though to Spruce Pine, covering a total distance of 921 miles, on a Greyhound Bus. In search for a remedy to the disfigured look on her face which she has been living with since a serious accident as a child, Violet meets and falls in love with the array of characters who she meets on her journey, most notably Flick (Jay Marsh) and Monty (Matthew Harvey).

Set in traverse at The Charing Cross Theatre, Director Shuntaro Fujita makes excellent use of the minimal staging and equality in the using of having two sides of an audience to share the action with, and most importantly taking full advantage of the different entrances around the space. The problem that I really had with the story though was the development of the storyline which never really produces any intensity in a musical with no remarkable or memorable scores. Sadly the musical begins and climaxes on a whim, with what felt like an overall lack of energy from the cast.

Kaisa Hammarlund is an exception to the case though, who brings a little flare to the main protagonist, and really fights with emotions to carry the ensemble through the performance. Rebecca Nardin as Young Violet also soars in the production, one of three actresses to play the role, and is a delight to watch with so much movement and expression in her songs that really makes you believe in the younger version of an equally brilliant actress portraying the older, most current portrayal of the character. Raise me Up, a song which comes in the latter half of this 90 minute musical, is the one score in which I found that choreographer Cressida Carré really excelled in the production and as a song itself really held my attention and found myself enjoying the moment, but nothing further after keeping that adrenaline lifted.

Overall, Violet is a bleak, often lackluster creation in which is worth holding the attention for to only witness Kaisa Hammarlund’s remarkable performance as Violet Karl.


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