By Michael Gioia
21 Apr 2014
|Photo by Monica Simoes|
"It's been 17 years. It's a teenager," said Tony Award-nominated composer Jeanine Tesori of her "baby" (as she referred to it April 20) — her first musical endeavor, Violet — which began its life in 1997 at Playwrights Horizons. "I feel like I've been pregnant with a teenager for a long time. I'm just relieved that we got the chance to do the work that we wanted to do, and the Roundabout [Theatre Company] and the people who invested helped us get on the way to bring it to life."
The musical was "on its way," so to speak, following its July 17 one-night-only performance, as part of Encores! Off-Center's inaugural season. The acclaimed evening, headed by Tony Award winner Sutton Foster — who reprises her performance as the insecure, yet headstrong, title character — paved Violet's path to Broadway.
Tesori — and critics alike — agreed that Foster (a two-time Tony winner for tap-happy roles in Anything Goes and Tesori's Thoroughly Modern Millie) delivered a career re-defining performance in Violet, in which she set the glitz, glamour and tap shoes aside for a simple peach-colored dress and her long, brown hair (used to cover Violet's scar — the center of the story — on the right side of her face).
"To tell you the truth, I didn't think of Sutton. I had just asked Sutton to hold some time for the Off-Center season because I knew I wanted to do something with her, and it happened to be Violet. It wasn't that I thought about Sutton for this part; it just came together. It was serendipity. Honestly, I'm not that smart," admitted Tesori.
She continued, "I think that Sutton has been able to perform accompanied by a lot — dance and makeup and wigs — and I think [this] was an opportunity for her to sort of discard all of that and find out what was at the heart of a lot of the performance…"Continued...