Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Ford's Theatre

Also see Susan's reviews of Richard III and Ella Fitzgerald: First Lady of Song

Erin Driscoll, Kevin McAllister and James Gardiner
Gentle is the word that best describes Violet, the musical now at Ford's Theatre in Washington. This 1997 work by Jeanine Tesori (music) and Brian Crawley (book and lyrics) touches on questions of faith, love, truth, and beauty—but does so in a delicate way that, at times, is less than dramatic.

Violet (Erin Driscoll) lives in the mountains of North Carolina in the turbulent year 1964, mostly keeping away from other people. She has a disfigured face, the result of a woodcutting accident when she was 13, and she's tired of avoiding the looks of shock and pity she gets from others. She has saved her money and has decided to travel by bus to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she believes a faith-healing evangelist will restore her face.

Director Jeff Calhoun maintains the (perhaps overly) deliberate pace as Violet makes her journey. She meets two soldiers heading for camp in Arkansas, African-American sergeant Flick (Kevin McAllister) and white corporal Monty (James Gardiner), and they become traveling companions. If the specifics of the story aren't totally obvious, lines like "You'll be changing just by taking this trip" and "You don't have to leave home for a miracle" telegraph the underlying message.

While Driscoll brings Violet to appealing and genuine life, the standout is McAllister, whose impassioned acting and singing (specifically his first-act solo, "Let It Sing") wakes up the stage. The cast also includes some standout performers in small roles, notable Bobby Smith as Violet's father, Lauren Williams as the teenage version of Violet, and Gregory Maheu as the preacher.

Tobin Ost has created a scenic design that does a lot with a little: modular bus seats turn into booths in a diner, for example, and a backdrop scrim both showcases Violet's memories and, thanks to Aaron Rhyne's projection design, depicts the constant motion of the bus.

Ford's Theatre
January 24th - February 23rd
Music by Jeanine Tesori
Lyrics and book by Brian Crawley
Based on "The Ugliest Pilgrim" by Doris Betts
Violet: Erin Driscoll
Monty: James Gardiner
Flick: Kevin McAllister
Father: Bobby Smith
Young Vi: Lauren Williams
Bus Passenger/Congregant/Club Patron/Choir: Madeline Botteri
Bus Passenger/Bus Boy/Congregant/Club Patron/Choir: Troy Hopper
Bus Passenger/Land Lady/Lula: Kellee Knighten Hough
Bus Drivers 1 and 4/Preacher/Filthy Man/Radio Singer: Gregory Maheu
Old Ladies 1 and 2/Hotel Singer: Amy McWilliams
Bus Passenger/Music Hall Singer/Mabel: Nova Y. Payton
Bus Passenger/Leroy Evans/Walter/Radio Singer/Bus Driver 3/Earl: Stephen F. Schmidt
Bus Passenger/Bus Driver 2/Virgil/Radio Singer/Billy Dean/Creepy Guy: Chris Sizemore
Swings: Katie McManus, Stephen Gregory Smith
Directed by Jeff Calhoun
Musical direction by Jay Crowder
511 Tenth St., N.W.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-347-4833 or

Photo: Carol Rosegg