At this point in Slow Burn Theatre’s ascension within the South Florida musical theater scene, probably any show that co-founder Patrick Fitzwater would direct for the company would win over its audience. It certainly is Fitzwater’s enthusiasm for its latest, Violet, and the fervor he instills in his cast that can convince audiences that this quirky seesaw of a musical is worthwhile.
The 1997 score is by Tony Award-winning composer Jeanine Tesori (who won the 2015 Tony for Fun Home) before she became the first female composer to have two original musicals running concurrently on Broadway — Thoroughly Modern Millie, which ran for 903 performances, and Caroline, or Change.
The book and lyrics are by Brian Crawley and based on Doris Betts’ short story, The Ugliest Pilgrim. Published in 1973, the plot concern a girl who sets out a quest to fix her disfigured face. When we meet Violet, she is on a bus traveling from North Carolina to Oklahoma in hopes a televangelist healer can make the gash on her face disappear.
It’s 1964 – U.S. involvement in Vietnam is raging, the Civil Rights Act has just been passed, and The Beatles hold the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the Billboard charts. On the road, Violet meets two soldiers, a ladies man named Monty and shy sergeant Flick. All three of them, along with others they interact with along the way, share a longing for something that they believe will make them whole in one way or another – whether it is on the inside, on the outside, or both. But mostly the story’s throughline deals with judgement based on outer appearances.