Archive for Joshua Henry
The reviews are in, and the critics love Violet and Sutton Foster, version 2.0. In many ways, Violet and Ms. Foster is an unlikely pair — a deeply emotional musical about a farm girl with a disfigured face doesn’t typically call for a twirling, big-grin, big-Broadway star. In this story, though, Ms. Foster reveals an ability to capture her character from all angles, revealing hope, vulnerability, despair, defensiveness, and what most critics call prickliness. By all accounts she’s captivating. The Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley musical is only made more special by the touching story and songs (influenced by the setting of the American South in 1964). It’s not glitzy or glamorous, and it certainly doesn’t showcase the Sutton Foster you know, but Violet is unique on Broadway and not a show to be missed without good reason.
NEW YORK TIMES
“When Sutton Foster appears on Broadway, she’s usually boasting a sunbeam smile, flapping away in tap shoes, clowning around amiably and generally behaving like a girl determined to nail the talent competition in a beauty pageant, and maybe take home the Miss Congeniality award, too. But pep-allergic people will not need to steel themselves to see the terrific, heart-stirring revival of Violet, the musical by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley that opened at the American Airlines Theater on Sunday night, starring Ms. Foster in a career-redefining performance. Portraying a young woman from North Carolina desperately hoping an evangelist can pray away the deep scar on her face, Ms. Foster moves into thornier territory than she has occupied before in frothy musicals like Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Drowsy Chaperone and the recent revival of Anything Goes. By the show’s conclusion, her familiar megawatt grin has been unfurled, but the journey to sunrise on this occasion allows Ms. Foster to reveal the full range of her expressive gifts as a musical theater performer. She dazzles with the bright sheen of her voice, yes, and slings wry jokes with the ease of a diner waitress slapping down plates of eggs and grits. But she also brings a prickly emotional intensity to the moving story of a woman grappling with shame, self-delusion and the fear that a deformity will forever leave her standing alone outside the circle of humanity. ”
TIME OUT NEW YORK
“It took 17 years, but Jeanine Tesori’s beloved musical about a woman with a facial deformity journeying through the 1960s South has made it to Broadway. Featuring the formidable talents of Sutton Foster and Colin Donnell (Anything Goes) and Joshua Henry (The Scottsboro Boys), this bittersweet period piece is directed by Leigh Silverman (Kung Fu). Adapted from Doris Betts’s short story The Ugliest Pilgrim, Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s 1997 musical follows the spiky title character on her trek to an Oklahoma faith healer who, she hopes, will remove the grotesque facial scar (invisible to us) that she received from an ax wound years before. It’s the darkest and richest role Foster has played, and she swings with marvelous speed from defensive prickliness to poignant hope.”
NBC NEW YORK
“Those expecting to see Sutton Foster belting and tap-dancing her way through her latest Broadway leading-role should be warned: the 39-year-old actress, who won Tonys for her turns in Thoroughly Modern Millie and Anything Goes, provides a restrained, intricate performance inViolet, the Jeanine Tesori-Brian Crawley musical now open at the American Airlines Theatre. It’s a startling turn from the Foster we’re used to seeing, but one that will transfix you all the same. Stripped of any glitzy costumes, wigs or makeup, Foster stands on stage in a plain sundress, her hair uncombed and pushed behind her ears, and breaths life into a complicated, flawed, hopeful character. You’ll feel as though you’re witnessing a star being reborn, 18 years into her career.”
“Broad strokes and big effects often appear to be the default setting for Broadway musicals, so it’s always refreshing to see a modestly scaled show in which the cast and creative team trust in the value of emotional intimacy. Driven by a performance of incandescent yearning from Sutton Foster that’s all the more moving for its restraint, Violet is a delicate wildflower, craning toward the sun. Director Leigh Silverman’s spirited yet sensitive production of Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s country, bluegrass and gospel-flavored 1997 musical makes this poignant story of a facially disfigured farm girl’s journey to self-acceptance genuinely uplifting. The revival was hatched out of a one-night-only concert event last summer that drew love-letter reviews for Foster, a triple-threat Broadway baby seen here in a subdued mode. While the production retains a stripped-down feel, Roundabout Theatre Company has given it dimensions that are a perfect fit for the material, set in September 1964 in the American South.”
“Some musicals are big and brassy, calling out for attention with their razzle-dazzle and sassy sets. Others are more demure, letting their simple beauty shine. How appropriate then that a show about inner loveliness chose the latter path. Violet, which opened Sunday at the American Airlines Theatre, makes a Broadway debut with just a few chairs, a simple bed, no big costume changes and a score so rich and sublime that you’ll hardly notice anything is missing.”
Another Off-Broadway transfer, The Scottsboro Boys, has moved to Broadway (after a quick fix-up out of town). The show is stronger than ever and critics are raving about the choreography, score, story and the amazing turn by newcomer Joshua Henry. The Scottsboro Boys‘ minstrel show treatment of very dark subject matter has critics split – some find the pairing genius and while others find the minstrel-show set up lessens the impact or is just outright smug.
Here’s what the major publications thought:
New York Post
A boldly stylized, defiantly razzle-dazzle look at true events…The story has a resounding emotional charge, but we also clearly see the cruel, almost cartoonish absurdity of it all…As grim as its subject is, the show is vibrantly alive…On the surface, The Scottsboro Boys is a hard sell in a Times Square dominated by escapist fluff…Yet this is also a thrillingly inventive and entertaining night at the theater. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be moved. What could be more Broadway than that? Read the full review
Arguably the finest of last season’s new musicals when it appeared at the Vineyard in March…[it’s now] stronger, tighter and even more impactful…Director-choreographer Stroman, working on a far simpler scale than usual, delivers her most creative and effective work in years, and Kander’s music sounds great…Actors appear to be relatively cramped for space, resulting in a suitably claustrophobic feel and a jolt in voltage that helps account for the increased power of Scottsboro in its new home on Broadway. Read the full review
Nestled snugly into the Lyceum Theatre, whose musty period interior enhances the show in ways the rather antiseptic Vineyard Theatre never could, this look at a monstrous, racially motivated miscarriage of justice in the Depression-era South, staged in the form of a minstrel show, packs quite a punch. It’s a satisfying finale for the legendary songwriting team…Thanks to some small but smart focusing, clarifying, and tightening of the book and director-choreographer Susan Stroman’s exemplary staging, the show now makes it clear that its purpose is not to tell the personal stories of these men. The musical is about what happened to them, and how that changed America…Here’s to the creative team for insisting on delivering the show it wanted. The Scottsboro Boys sets a high bar for Broadway musicals this season. Read the full review
The New York Times
Mr. Kander and Mr. Ebb have written a zesty if not top-tier score, but the pleasures of a jaunty ragtime melody and a clever lyric are hard to savor when they are presented in such an unavoidably grim context…Although the show’s momentum is hampered by both its essential singularity of tone and the tortuous history of the court cases, the production remains dynamic, thanks in no small part to the dauntless energy of the terrific cast, all fine singers and dancers. But the musical never really resolves the tension between its impulse to entertain us with hoary jokes and quivering tambourines and the desire to render the harsh morals of its story with earnest insistence. Read the full review
Wall Street Journal
It is impossible not to be thrilled by the electrifying craftsmanship…The problem is that all this formidable talent has been enlisted in the service of a musical so smug that I could scarcely bear to sit and watch it…I suppose there are places in America where such a show might still jolt its viewers, but to see The Scottsboro Boys on Broadway is to witness a nightly act of collective self-congratulation in which the right-thinking members of the audience preen themselves complacently at the thought of their own enlightenment…A musical that slathers this terrible tale in a thick coat of musical-comedy frosting that has been spiked with cheap, elephantine irony. I can’t imagine a nastier-tasting recipe. Read the full review
Have you seen the show? What did you think?