The musical “Violet” by Brian Crawley and Jeanine Tesori has taken residence at The Dio Theatre in Pinckney for the next six weeks, and it is their strongest offering yet.
Led by a remarkable performance by Mahalia Greenway in the title role, this is a musical that has already claimed a place in musical theater history, Off-Broadway 1997, and on Broadway just this past season. Telling the story of a woman with a scar on her face from an accident in childhood, it follows two storylines as she goes off to Tulsa to seek a televangelist whom she believes will heal her scars, while simultaneously revealing to the audience how things went down in the first place. Her father is played by Andrew Gorney in another very strong outing at The Dio, while (at my performance) 8th grader Lilly Rosenberg was excellent in the role of Young Violet.
Of course, it all leads to the inevitable conclusion that beauty lies within, but getting to that point is what makes this story so interesting. The score is primarily comprised of country pop and gospel tunes (perhaps you’ve heard “Raise Me Up” on Sirius XM’s On Broadway where it gets a lot of play). Mahalia Greenway brings a depth of acting as well as singing to the role of Violet as she makes her journey — and what a journey it is.
While she travels by bus from her down-south mountain home, to Tulsa, she discovers that people can be selfish and caddish (Monty, played by director Steve DeBruyne), interesting and enigmatic (visiting actor Luther Rapheal Simon as Flick), open books (Linda Rabin Hammell) or closed ones. The ensemble is very strong, and in addition to the fine performances from these actors, there are also dynamic performances by Lauren Norris as Beale-Street singer Mabel, Peter Crist as the Preacher, Tyler Smith in various roles, Kristen Crockett as gospel singer Lula, and Jeff Steinhauer in other character parts. Its a true ensemble that sounds and works well together.
The five-piece backstage orchestra sounds great, though occasionally dialogue was lost at our performance when microphones for singers were at lower levels than the pop ensemble playing behind (and above) them – resulting in some sound balance issues. These resolved as the evening went along.
There is good setwork and good projections by designer Matthew Tomich, and the evening moves smoothly and quickly from scene to scene thanks to director Steve DeBruyne, musical staging by Thalia Schramm, and their cast working in sync from opening number to last.
This is the strongest offering at the Dio to date — and it is highly recommended. Not only is this a strong production all around, but it is a story-driven musical that you should take the time to check out.
Dinner, as always, is by the talented Chef Jarod and includes his trademark fried chicken and a tasty Jambalaya.
Violet continues at The Dio through May 17th, 177 E Main St, Pinckney, MI, 48169 517-672-6009 diotheatre.com
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