‘Violet’ at T2 a musical journey of hard times and healing through July 2

‘Violet’ at T2 a musical journey of hard times and healing through July 2

“People who aren’t quote-unquote ‘musical theater people’ can jam out to this,” enthuses Kelly Felthous, who plays the title character in “Violet,” on stage now at TheatreSquared in Fayetteville.

“You get the gospel and the blues, which most musicals don’t do,” she adds. “We actually have real gospel choir singers come in to sing some of this music each night. So it is very authentic. … It’s very raw and real and not as musical theater as I feel like some musicals tend to go.”

Based on the Southern Gothic short story, “The Ugliest Pilgrim,” by Doris Betts — with music by Jeanine Tesori (“Fun Home”) — “Violet” is a musical road trip set in 1964 following a young woman who meets two soldiers on a bus. This “journey of a lifetime” won the Lucille Lortel, Obie and Drama Critics’ Circle Awards for Best Musical and was a five-time Tony Award nominee.

“[Violet] is a 25-year-old girl from the mountains in North Carolina, who at the age of 13, actually gets injured in an accident with an ax by her father,” Felthous says, which leaves her with a scar on her face.

“This is her journey to Tulsa, Okla., to be healed by a television preacher,” Felthous says. “Along the way, she finds out that sometimes that’s not the healing you need. [Sometimes] you need to work on yourself in your heart and your mind and your soul versus your actual physical appearance. And it’s about her journey and who she meets along the way.”

The story plays out in songs and flashbacks. Felthous says that the overall effect is cinematic.

“There’s also an element of magic and belief in that which you can’t see. Violet herself is a deeply flawed character who had a very disturbing event happen and has been tortured by the impact,” Felthous says. “There is a darkness to the show, but it’s there to show the light and to get to the other side.”

She says that the struggle to be our authentic selves and find people who love us despite what we see as our physical flaws is timeless.

The story also plays on the Southern Gothic theme of disfiguration by leaving Violet’s scar to the viewer’s imagination.

“I love that we don’t show the scar,” she says. “The scar could be super tiny, but … in her head, it’s a disfigurement. It’s this horrible thing. And that’s like anything nowadays, you know what I mean? Someone has a pimple, and they’re like, ‘I’m a monster!’

“It’s not really about the scar. It’s about all the emotions behind the scar and the trauma behind it. And the healing that needs to be done, not just physically. So if you put that scar on there, people are distracted by that the whole time. And it’s really more a show about emotions and about connections.”

Felthous adds that even though the show is a musical, she feels like it’s an intimate play. She grew up performing on stage, almost literally because her mother runs a performing arts studio.

“She was a performer herself and encouraged it from day one. And I’ve always had a lot of energy and a very active imagination,” Felthous says. “She also encouraged anything I wanted to do, which was awesome. This just happened to be what stuck.

Felthous says one of her most notable roles was covering Glenda and Nessa in “Wicked,” on the second national tour.

“I’ve been honored to get to do some amazing roles and to really do some acting, which is all a musical theater person’s dream,” she says. “This show is what I think of more as a play with music — even though there is so much music. Because it is about the storytelling, and it is about the lines and the lyrics.”




WHEN — On stage at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and at 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday through July 2

WHERE — TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring St. in Fayetteville

COST — $20-$54

INFO — theatre2.org

Categories: Cover Story