PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Violet Saviors, Scars and Sutton

By Michael Gioia
21 Apr 2014

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Sutton Foster and Emerson Steele
Photo by Monica Simoes
At the heart of Violet, which made its official Broadway bow at the American Airlines Theatre April 20, is a girl grappling with interior and exterior beauty as she makes her way across the American South to reach a television televangelist, who (she believes) will cure her disfigured face. Along the way, she meets Flick and Monty — two soldiers, one black and one boastful — who teach her things she never knew about herself.

"Everyone has a scar, and so there's something about ourselves that we hate or despise — whether you can see it or it's within us, and we're all searching for answers in this life that has no answers. It's a true parable," said Foster, who revisits the southern hopeful with newfound nuance.

"To be honest, my mom passed away in September," she confided. "I think experiencing loss has changed me as a performer and also my relationship to Violet because, obviously, she deals with a lot of loss, and I think that has deepened me as an actor and as a performer and redefined myself as a human being — it can't help but not — and I think that has definitely colored Violet for me."

Her brother, Bridges of Madison County star Hunter Foster — looking proud at the show's after party, held on the 8th floor of the Marriott Marquis in Times Square — was able to pinpoint all the shades of his sister's Violet.

"I think that it was a great casting choice to use someone like Sutton, who has this ability to shine when she smiles and has a light around her… We, as an audience, are seeing her inner beauty; we're not seeing the scar. And, to me, I think it was a great casting choice to use someone like her," he explained, as his sister posed for pictures on the Easter Sunday opening night. "I know it was a real dream of Sutton's to be able to bring this show [to Broadway] and be a part of it. It was a show that she always loved, and to actually see her dream come true of performing this role and doing it on Broadway is a thrill tonight."

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The evening was especially thrilling for 14-year-old actress Emerson Steele, who plays Foster's teenage counterpart and wrote in her Playbill bio that she is "elated and grateful" to share the stage alongside her "idol."

"It was so exciting," she told following her performance. "I was really, really nervous a few hours before we started, but as soon as I stepped on stage, it was just the most exciting thing. To get to do this at 14 years old is just so incredible."

Joshua Henry, who commands the stage with his smooth and sultry voice in "Let It Sing" — and received show-stopping applause following his number on opening night — was also feeling lucky. He was revisiting the role of Flick 11 years later; the actor played the part in college in a production directed by Michael McElroy, who starred as Flick in the original Off-Broadway production at Playwrights Horizons.

Coming back to the role, he said, "I've just lived. I was 18. I've experienced a lot of highs and a lot of lows, and I realize a lot more what 'Let It Sing' is about. It's understanding who you are and understanding that the past doesn't have to define you. And, as far as Flick goes… I know a lot more about his demons — just living a decade of life, there's so much that happens. I was so starry-eyed doing it the first time at 18, just trying to sing the right notes… Ah, 'Let It Sing' — it's everything I believe. Forgiving yourself to move forward in life. Everyone's got scars."