Taking on the roles of Monty and Flick, traveling soldiers who both pursue relationships with the leading lady in the musical Violet, Tony nominee Joshua Henry and Colin Donnell are both returning to familiar ground.
The Broadway premiere of the award-winning musical, which is helmed by Leigh Silverman, marks a reunion of sorts for both Henry and Donnell. Henry is returning to the role of Flick, which he played in college, and Donnell is back together with two-time Tony winner Sutton Foster after the two co-starred in the Roundabout production of Anything Goes in 2011.
"This score has stayed with me for a very long time," said Henry, who has performed on Broadway in Porgy and Bess and American Idiot, and who was directed in college by the original Off-Broadway Flick, Michael McElroy. "I first discovered it when I was 18 years old. And being able to sing a song like 'Let It Sing' again has so much more meaning for me now that I'm a little bit older."
In the time that has passed since Violet's Off-Broadway bow at Playwrights Horizons, as well as Henry's first performance as Flick, the musical has been adjusted, with significant changes and cuts made to the script and score. The Broadway production features the shortened version that played City Center as part of its 2013 Encores! Off-Center season. The concert presentation, which starred Henry alongside two-time Tony winner Foster, ran an intermissionless 90 minutes.
The show's original creators, Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley, contributed to the retooling process — a process that Donnell, who has also performed in Jersey Boys and Love's Labour's Lost, described as exciting.
"It's such a cool piece, and it really feels like it's getting its day," he said. "It's quite a bit of time later, and seeing how much excitement Jeanine and Brian have for their baby, and the way they're really re-attacking the piece — they're so involved. It's infectious."
A coming-of-age story that takes place while on a long-distance bus trip, Violet, which was adapted from Doris Betts' story "The Ugliest Pilgrim," touches upon themes of inner and outer beauty and acceptance, as well as racial and sexual prejudice. Henry credits those themes, and their timelessness, to Violet being finally ready for its Broadway bow.
"It's always relevant — moving forward into the future and finding out who you are," Henry said. "I think those themes never get stale. This originally debuted in 1997, and there's a reason I think it took a little nap, but it didn't go away forever. It's great to be bringing it back in 2014.
"We all have something in our past that is gripping us, and Violet is very much about leaving those things behind," he added. "The themes of leaving the past behind, moving forward and finding out who you are as a person, not letting the past define you. Everyone's got something that they've held onto from their childhood or from a past relationship, someone who's told you what you are and it's leaving all that behind and living a happy life and realizing that a lot of that is inside you — really uncovering that. The story — those themes — are heavy themes that everyone can connect to."
"Maybe not everybody has a physical scar that they're carrying around, but they certainly see the plight of a girl who is just trying to make things right in her life," Donnell added.
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