Davine Interventionz
Star Theatres
Until 04 Feb 2017

Review by Anthony Vawser

David Gauci deserves the highest level of respect for taking the chance in bringing South Australian premieres to the public. “Violet” fully justifies his faith; it is a lovely production of a lesser-known piece of musical theatre, with Gauci’s cast and crew delivering a show that is frequently professional-standard in quality.

A coming-of-age tale, a father-and-daughter love story, an odyssey of discovery, an interracial romantic triangle, a journey back in time, a road trip through the heartland of historical America, a saga of forgiveness…”Violet” is all of these things and more, but is ideal for the whole family to enjoy.

Casmira Hambledon is a marvel in the lead/title role; she communicates so much with her silent, striking features alone, while her power and authority as a lead vocalist never fails to impress, even under circumstances that would appear to physically challenge any singer. Hambledon forms a perfect team, and a superb match, with Eloise Q Valentine – a vivid performer in her own right – as the younger version of Violet.

The supporting cast offers plenty of highlights: Andrew Crispe is ideally cast, and spot-on, as a faith healer; the script provides his character with more dimensions than you might expect, and Crispe gracefully avoids caricature in his portrayal. Mitchell Smith and Fahad Farooque are a believable pair of military men; one a callow youth falling back on arrogance and spite, the other striving to see the bright side of life against the odds. Adam Goodburn, as Violet’s father, has moments that are soul-stirring in their emotional power, while Jenny Scarce-Tolley is reliably delightful playing a number of gently comic types that are encountered along the way. As the hotel singer, Carly Meakin brings the house down with her knockout white-soul voice!

MD Peter Johns’ band is smooth, supportive, colourful, and capable of negotiating multiple movements with sharp shifts. The arrangement and execution of chorus vocals is stirring, stunning, gorgeous. Gauci’s staging of critical scenes like the gospel revival and the central accident is brilliantly effective. Mike Phillips’ lighting is textured and colourful. Costumes by Louise Watkins are sensational!

“Violet”, while telling a relatively simple and focused story (by Doris Betts), encompasses a great many worthy and engaging themes. It manages to be emotionally rich without the need for simplistic sentimentality. The music and lyrics (by Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley) are sturdy and warm, generating unusually complex feelings, and are given superb dynamism by an expert cast. Though its plot momentum tends to lag at times, “Violet” never loses its way, or its audience’s attention, for long - and we are rewarded with one of the most beautiful conclusions in this reviewer’s recent memory…It all adds up to a delight that shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)