What a gal!




Lyrics and Book by Brian Crawley

Music by Jeanine Tesori

Directed by M.R. Goodley

The Gallery Players (www.galleryplayers.com)

199 14th Street, Brooklyn (718) 595-0547

Equity approved showcase (through March 11)

Review by David Mackler


Violet’s a girl with a lot on her mind. She’s got smarts, she can read people, she’s wise to the ways of men and boys, and she is eager to get out of Spruce Pine, North Carolina, where she has spent all her life. But her quest for freedom has a catch – she’s on her way via Greyhound to Tulsa, Oklahoma where she hopes to receive a blessing from a preacher she’s seen on TV, a blessing that will cure her disfiguring facial scar. When she meets people, she makes attempts to cover the scar with hair, but she knows it’s always there.


Violet is a road-trip of a show about a girl in search of herself, and The Gallery Players have mounted a fine, low-key, but affecting production. That it’s as moving as it is comes from some excellent acting in parts large and small, but mostly by Rhyn McLemore as the title character, a girl who has to be bold and straightforward at the same time she’s on her quixotic quest. In flashbacks to her life at home, Violet is played by the equally good Anne Berkowitz; in the present, Violet shows how she puts to use the lessons she learns from her father (Brad Thomason) – he may have taught her to play cards so she’ll learn math, but she’s smart enough to know how to use the talent to not get taken advantage of.


Musically, the show takes a little while to take off – the opening is full of expository lyrics, but when the bus is on the move and the passengers sing “On My Way” about their hopes and dreams, the show comes alive. The passengers are an interesting bunch: a couple of young girls who break the ice by sharing a snack, an older woman with a wry sense of humor and herself (Sarah Orr), and especially Flick and Monty (Collin Howard, Shad Olsen) two soldiers on their way back to Fort Smith, Arkansas.


Since the year is 1964, there’s plenty of reason for conflict – Monty is white, Flick is black, soldiers are being sent to Vietnam, Violet’s a young woman traveling on her own. Songs help place characters – Violet’s “All to Pieces” is about how she wants to be beautiful like Gene Tierney or Cyd Charisse; Flick tries to clue her in to the probable reality of the preacher and explains how everyone’s on their own and can do for themselves in the gospel style “Let It Sing.”  When Violet’s suitcase is stolen and she stays at a ‘colored’ boarding house there’s pointed racism, this time directed at the white girl. When Monty makes love to Violet, there’s a funny flashback to the young Violet and a boy who likes her, and Violet’s “Lonely Stranger” is juxtaposed by a commentary-chorus of “Anyone Would Do.” 


The second act is less interesting, to some extent because Violet gets to Tulsa and wants her impossible miracle – and it’s upsetting to see our capable heroine so needy. The cause of her scar is revealed to be from an accident (or was it?  Paging Dr. Freud!), but she sees herself as damaged, not the full, strong person she is. It’s something she’ll have to discover for herself – and as that realization sets in, it becomes clear why Violet’s costume, a simple dress, has been accessorized with red shoes. The whole thing is a reworking of a certain classic movie version of a story by L. Frank Baum, which also explains the somewhat overly sentimental ending where one of her companions sees no change in her but the other does. The finale, “Bring Me To Light” is still stirring, even if the show ends with the equivalent of Dorothy finding her home with, say, the Tin Man.


But with minimal scenery (designed by Charlie Corcoran) – the set-piece used as a bus was more effective than something more realistic would have been; good lighting (Todd M. Reemtsma) and costumes (Lillian Rhiger); and a four person band that sounded much more extensive (under the direction of Jeffrey Campos), the Gallery Players are celebrating their 40th anniversary with another high achievement.


Also with the excellent contributions of Jan-Peter Pedross, Yolanda Batts, Marcie Henderson, Brian Michael Flanagan, Jeremy Ritz, Julie Galorenzo, Tyler Marcum, and Julie Rees.

Box Score:

Book/Lyrics: 1

Music:  2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Sets: 1

Costumes: 2

Lighting/Sound: 1

Copyright 2007 David Mackler

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