PlayMakers Summer Youth Conservatory debuted “Violet” Wednesday night at the Paul Green Theater.
“Violet,” which is based on the late UNC professor Doris Betts’ book “The Ugly Pilgrim,” was directed and choreographed by Matthew Steffens, whose credits include “The Last Five Years” movie, which stars Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.
Ainsley Seiger played Violet, a young woman disfigured by an axe blade who goes on a journey to visit a televangelist she believes can cure her.
Seiger delivered a wonderful performance, capturing the complexities of her character’s struggle to make peace with her scars.
Her voice was very strong with an impressive belt, and its softer side was revealed on the song “Lay Down Your Head.”
Presyce Baez showed promise as a young actor playing Flick, managing to seem sweet and providing a stark contrast to Wilson Plonk’s Monty, who has some ulterior motives in his interactions with Violet.
The real star of the show, though, was Marcella Cox, who played Lula Buffington and the music hall singer.
Cox stole the show every chance she got, despite only having a few lines. Her voice was strong, husky and powerful, peppered with incredible high notes.
Some members of the company lacked energy, and their facial expressions often left something to be desired. However, the ensemble consistently sounded great, and their performance was still impressive for their age.
The largest issue with the performance came in the production. At one point in the show, a microphone squealed loudly and at a high pitch, distracting from the performance.
The balance between the pit musicians and the singers was often sub-par, with the music drowning out the singing.
The pit musicians stayed appropriately in the background for the majority of the show, but the violin, which often sounded more like a fiddle, cello and guitar added greatly to the character of the musical.
The set and costume designs were understated, yet tasteful — the three real trees included in the set added an element that made the set seem more natural, but seemed out of place at times, such as during the televangelist’s scenes.
One criticism is the character Violet moves too quickly romantically from Monty to Flick, leaving the audience scratching their heads.
Overall, “Violet” was well put-together with wonderful and compelling leading actors that made the musical well worth seeing despite the slight production errors and issues with the progression of the musical itself.
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