"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.
"I think the reason that the Encores! concert came to Broadway was Sutton Foster," explained librettist Brian Crawley. "People just saw her in this role and thought, 'My God, she's great in this role.' This role looks like it's written for her, and it shows parts of her that other roles haven't shown us before."
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…"