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Friday, October 2, 2015

‘Violet’ a musical next at Pennington Players

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The Pennington Players are bringing Violet, a musical story about the growth and enlightenment of a young woman scarred by a childhood accident, to the stage of Kelsey Theatre. Performances are November 6, 7, 13, 14 at 8:00 pm and November 8 & 15 at 2:00 pm. Kelsey Theatre is located on the college’s West Windsor Campus, 1200 Old Trenton Road. A reception with the cast and crew follows the opening night performance on November 6th.

Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” by Doris Betts, Violet borrows its musical style from the American traditions of blues, gospel, and folk. Featuring the music of Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Brian Crawley, the original production opened in 1997 to critical acclaim. The play won the New York Drama Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Musical as well as the Richard Rodgers Production Award. Violet is an early work by the composer Jeanine Tesori, whose best-known later works range from big-name movie adaptations of Shrek and Thoroughly Modern Millie to more adventurous terrain Caroline, or Change, her collaboration with Tony Kushner, which is also set in the civil rights era South.

The title character is a young woman from the hills of North Carolina.  An accident involving an ax-head has left her badly disfigured.  She sets out on a bus trip to Tulsa, the city that is home to a televangelist faith healer who, Violet is convinced, will restore her to a normal appearance.  During the ride, she meets a pair of soldiers heading to Fort Smith, Arkansas.  One, Monty, is white, one, Flick, is black.  In the South of 1964, she finds a kinship with Flick, who, like her, is immediately judged by strangers because of his appearance.  The real question the show ponders is “What is beauty?”

VioletFullResWatermark-009-VioletPost-001          Shannen Doyle as Violet and Kyrus Keenan Westcott as Flick+

Leading the cast as Violet Karl is Shannen Doyle of Kendall Park; Kyrus Keenan Westcott of Hamilton as Flick; and Ben Menahem of Plainsboro as Monty. Completing the cast are Julia Toto of Pennington as Young Violet; William Kamps of Burlington as Father; Jaimie McMillin of Bordentown as the Old Lady; Tia Brown of Lawrenceville as the Music Hall singer; Jaleesa Moore of North Brunswick as Lula Buffington; Faye Macey of Philadelphia, PA as the Landlady; Michael Zweig of Philadelphia, PA as the Preacher; Michael Gearty of Langhorne, PA as Virgil; and Tom Bessellieu of Lawrenceville as the Bus Driver.

Jenn Gregg of Ewing is the producer, with stage direction by Frank Ferrara of West Windsor. The production staff is completed by Musical Director Shannon Ferrara of West Windsor; Associate Music Director Mike Gilch of Princeton; Stage Manager, Vianna Fagel of Lambertville; choreography by Nicole Farina-Machin of Columbus; set design by Bryan Schendlinger of Langhorne, PA; lighting design by Judi Parrish of West Trenton; sound design by Wayne Irons of Princeton; costume design by Jay Stevens of Pennington; and properties by Dottie Farina of Hamilton.

Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $16 for students and children.  Tickets are available online, www.kelseytheatre.net, or by calling the Kelsey Theatre Box Office at 609-570-3333.  Kelsey Theatre is wheelchair accessible, with free parking available next to the theater.

+Photo credit:  Rob Gougher

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